REVIEW: Trouble Me by Laura Moore
Dear Ms. Moore,
The first two pages of your novel Trouble Me made me uneasy. Your heroine, Jade Radcliffe, is driving to her family farm, Rosewood. As she drives, she thinks about all the people there she’s looking forward to seeing. There are her two sisters and their two husbands, her six nieces and nephews, and an elderly gentleman who’s worked for the family for years. Immediately, I felt as though I’d been dropped into someone’s family reunion without any idea who all the people milling about were. Trouble Me is the third in the Rosewood series. The first two books, which I’ve not read, tell the stories of the Jade’s sisters. By page three, I’d forgotten which perfect sister was married to which perfect guy; perhaps I might have enjoyed this book more had I read its predecessors, but I doubt it.
By page three of your book, Jade has decided to stop driving—it’s begun pouring rain—and spend the night in a motel. She does so, in part, to show her sisters, Margot and Jordan, “how much she’d matured.” Even though she’s only twenty-two, she’s “leagues removed from the Jade of yesteryear.” The old Bad Jade was
the one who sometimes felt the need to step right up to edge and do something crazy with a wild, fiery lick of danger. But though she’d had her share of parties and experiences, it hadn’t prevented her from getting straight A’s even with a super-charged course load, being the top scorer on her riding team, and writing a very popular advice column for the school paper.
Hmmmm, I thought, Bad Jade, doesn’t seem very bad to me. In fact, she seems like an over achiever. I began to hope she wasn’t going to be one of those practically perfect in every way heroines. Then, on page 17, after Jade has checked into a hotel, showered and put on “her white jeans, a Jean Paul Gautier chiffon tank… and a pair of high-heeled sandals” to head down to the bar where she just wants to have a drink and relax, she is described by Rob, the hero of the book.
Magnetic was the first word that came to his mind; within seconds she’d drawn every male eye in the bar to her. Trouble was the second. A woman who looked like this, slim yet curvy in all the right places, with sun-streaked hair that fell past her shoulders in thick waves, and with a walk that was bold yet carried sensual promise in each step, could only cause mayhem….
In the wrong place, this woman could start a riot.
The dynamite package only got more explosive as she neared and Rob took in the lushness of her lips and the high slash of her cheekbones. Passion and drama.
By the end of the third chapter, where Jade is proved to be not only super smart, a great rider, fabulous with kids (she’s just started teaching second grade), a vixen in bed, and able to eat all the junk food she wants without ever gaining a pound, I was ready to put the book down. Flawless folk don’t do it for me—and New Jade is flawless.
The only reason I kept reading was to see what came of what happened in Chapter Two. In that chapter, Jade walks into the above mentioned bar and, unsurprisingly is instantly hit on by a steady stream of losers. Rob tells one of the most overeager to get lost and gets Jade to dance with him instead. After standing in each other’s arms for about two minutes, Rob asks Jade—Bad Jade is back!–if she has a room. She says yes and off they run to have a night of no-holds, barred, staying up all night, smokin’ sex. Their encounter is supposed to be a one night stand—Jade won’t even give Rob her name. They part; sure they’ll never see each other again.
But, of course, such isolation is not to be. Not only does Rob live in the same town as Jade’s family—Warburg, Virginia—he and Jade have A PAST. Rob is twenty-nine and, like all the men in his family, has worked for the Warburg Police force his entire adult life. He busted teenage Bad Jade twice—she thought of him as RoboCop–and, the second time, while he was booking her, his saintly and beloved wife died suddenly, at home and alone, of a burst appendix. Ever since then, he’s blamed Bad Jade for the fact that he wasn’t at home to save his wife. Jade and Rob hadn’t seen each other since that night and, despite how unique looking Jade is, Rob didn’t recognize her nor she him the night they got down and dirty.
Rob is completely freaked out when he realizes that not only is Bad Jade back in town; she’s his daughter Hayley’s new second grade teacher. So, he goes to parent/teacher night at the school, and both he and Jade are SHOCKED to see that the other is that wild one nighter neither can forget. Rob of course, does the only thing any sane man would do in a classroom on parent/teacher night. He glares at Jade throughout the evening and then, when all the other parents have left, comes up, bitches her out for being a slut and thus inappropriate to be a second grade teacher, grabs her, kisses her passionately (she, of course responds), sticks his fingers in her panties, and asks if she has a condom. Jade who interprets his question to imply he really does think she’s a slut, shoves him off her, kicks him out of her classroom, and then sobs because—I think—she’s devastated he has such a low opinion of her. At this point, I made a notation in the margin of my book: This book is peopled by aliens.
Dutifully, I kept reading. I learned lots about horses—the Radcliffes own many, ride often, and discuss them at great length. I marveled at how completely unrealistic Jade’s teaching experience was portrayed. I paged through the very odd sub-plot in which Jade hires a private investigator to find out who her dead mother was cheating on her dead father with. (The resolution of that plot is so bizarre, it was almost impressive.) I yawned as all the other Radcliffes and their perfect families floated in and out of the story, full of love and trifling bon mots. I wasn’t the least bit startled to see Rob realize teenage Bad Jade was just misunderstood and New Jade is a goddess. I considered flipping to the end to see how it would all turn out, but realized there was no need—there was bound to be a wedding, a baby on the way, lots of kids decked out in cute outfits, and probably a horse or two. Sadly, I was sure there wouldn’t be a mother ship taking the perfect Radcliffe family and their spouses back to Alienland.
Frankly, if I were the peerless Radcliffe family, I’d want to get the hell out of Warburg. It is not my kind of town. At one point, Jade almost loses her teaching job because, horrors of horrors, she once wrote a sex/relationship advice column for her college paper. This heinous crime is taken very seriously by much of the town, the principal, the School Board, and several of her students’ parents; Jade is forced to take a leave of absence. It’s only after several people actually read the column and decide it’s a good thing to
have young people be informed about sex and sexuality through the intelligent writing of their peers
turning to the distorted world of reality TV and the Internet for their information
that the town embraces Jade.
This book was a slowly paced, unbelievable read. I suspect many might find it charming. I found it tiresome and unenjoyably superficial.
If this book were a painting, it would have been painted by Thomas Kinkade—it’s a story full of glorious joy, charming children, doting siblings, and oodles of truer than true love. It reads like this piece looks:
I give the book a C-.
The reading experience to picture comparison is the best thing ever. And as I am NOT a fan of Thomas Kinkade I can easily say that, combined with this review, I’ll be passing on this book. But kudos on the comparison! That was more interesting than the reading experience proved to be it seems.
I had to look very closely at that picture to be sure that those weren’t somewhat pastel coloured unicorns. Never come across the painter before – perfect accompaniment to the review!
The description of what she decided to wear at the bar brings back memories of Sweet Valley High books. They always made sure to tell us exactly what those sassy twins were wearing.
IIRC, it’s actually quite hard to get accepted into teaching college if one has a police record. CRB checks would pull anything like this up. In Britain, pretty much any kind of crime can get you barred from the profession.
@FD: He was the most collected painter in America. It is estimated that 1 in 20 homes has a Kinkade. He called himself “The Painter of Light.”
@Jane Lovering: I think, since she was a minor, she doesn’t have a police record.
It makes me a little uncomfortable to think of “Thomas Kinkade” and “sex scenes” at the same time. I don’t think sex happens in Kinkade World. Were the sex scenes in this book fade-to-black or were they more detailed? From the “sticks his fingers in her panties” bit (are we really supposed to like him??), I’d guess more detailed.
My first exposure to Kinkade was during a visit to a mall, where there was a temporary Thomas Kinkade gallery. An entire gallery of bright, pretty landscapes. ::shudder::
Great review, Dabney. I really needed a laugh on this dreary morning.
By the way, I always thought it was insufferable that Kinkade trademarked the phrase “Painter of Light.” I’m not sure a guy who painted idyllic cottages and fat ponies had a right to that much ego.
So he busted Bad Jade twice yet he didn’t recognize her in the bar, on the dance floor, or in a motel bed? Uh…no. I’m never a fan of the “lust-induced” amnesia. Nor am I a fan of the “hero” who jumped at the chance to take that woman to bed then calls her a “slut”.
@Jenny Lyn: It got even odder than that. He didn’t recognize her, but, at the school, he’s convinced she recognized him and slept with him “to pull the wool over his eyes” and to “screw him in every sense of the word.”
Hence my sense of them as aliens.
@Hannah E.: Every time my husband sees a Vermeer, I remind him of Kinkade’s claim. It was pretty damn preposterous.
Apparently it’s OK for a cop and the father of a second-grader to have hot, anonymous sex, but not for the second-grader’s teacher to do the same with him. I don’t care how freaked out he was after, he didn’t go into that hotel room alone.
You know, I’m beginning to think that some kind of underground, shorthand rating of books would be a good idea. I don’t mean to warn us away from the hot sex, but to alert us to Plot Moppets (PM), Double Standards (DS), Small-minded Citizenry (SmC), Perfect Families (PF) and Would Benefit from Alien Invasion (WBfAI). I’m certain we could could come up with a pretty effective code and save everyone a lot of time.
Let me be clear I am not talking about this book in particular because I haven’t read it. I’m just weary of the way so many stories are assembled from stock or standard parts, as if there’s a checklist or assembly line through which each must pass on its way to publication.
@Dabney Ah, thank you, I understand now!
@Darlynne: To be fair, he does realize, when he calms down, he’s been an ass and apologizes. Still, it was too double-standardy for me.
I’m very impressed that you were so restrained as to give this book a C-. As I read your review I was seeing a D. Though
annoyed me a lot, so perhaps I’m biased. And in what world is this ‘bad?!!’
I genuinely wonder what the demographic of the audience for this sort of saccharine craziness is? Anyone know?
@Dabney: Wow. Thanks for the link Dabney, that’s really quite… something.
As is that self bestowed encomium. Words fail me.
@Dabney: Thomas Kinkade: the Lisa Frank of the 2000s.
I’ve read all three books of Laura Moore’s Rosewood series, and I was disappointed by Jade’s story. I also agree that the overall flow of this book is very slow. However, since I’ve read the previous two books (which are much better than this one by the way), I really enjoy seeing the “family reunion” so to speak.
Jade’s troubled youth was fully depicted in the first book (Margo’s story), and I think one needs to understand Jade’s estranged relationship with her family described in the previous books to fully appreciate the “harmony” shown in the current installment.
As to why Rob doesn’t recognize Jade at the hotel bar, my only explanation is several years has pasted since teenage Jade was busted by Rob, and Jade’s transformation from a teenager to an adult women big enough for render her not recognizable by a casual acquaintance. My question is why Jade doesn’t recognize Rob.
Typo: several years have passed.
You know that Kinkade had a troubled past and lost a boatload of money when people finally figured out he wasn’t the new Monet? And that he recently died after starting to drink heavily again? And that his wife and GF are duking it out over the GF’s possible tell-all? The paintings may have been pure saccharine, but his life wasn’t.
I’m probably not the audience for this book since I’m not a huge fan of contemporaries to start with, and it appears that there are a couple of elements that would irritate me right off the bat. Yeah, I know it happens in real life, but I’m not a fan of the MCs hooking up in some rutting frenzy the (supposedly) first time they meet. That said, I really hate for the man to call the woman a ho-bag for doing it (while it’s perfectly OK for him). She’s not fit to teach small children because of what she did, but it’s perfectly fine behavior for a single father who’s a member of law enforcement? The double standard thrives.
I also get annoyed with that indirect blame thing. “If only I hadn’t had to arrest you, I would have been with my wife and she’d be alive.” Again, I guess people do really think stuff like this, but it seems like a cheap device.
I’m looking forward to this one. I loved the first two & I love the wild child/cop combo. I love the setting as well & the author has me picturing quite vividly the white picket fences & corrals of horse country rather than a Kinkade painting.
I’ve read all three in Laura Moore’s Rosewood Trilogy. I enjoyed each and found all three books to be solid and well-written. It puzzles me when someone writes a review without having read the entire package — especially on a third book in a series, tearing it down for reasons that might have been answered in the two previous books. It just seems to be a short-changed review in my opinion. There’s also the factor that remains front and center in my mind that I’m reading fiction. If I want real life, I’ll pick up my newspaper or turn on the television and see who has shot or knifed and killed whom or how many innocent children have been abused or killed recently. It’s all in the way a reader views the contents — at least for me.
@Anne W: I don’t think I reading the first two books would have made much of a difference for me. I found the characters to be unbelievable in ways that didn’t work for me–don’t even get me started on the model sister.
That said, I think it’s great you enjoyed them. I escape into books all the time. Ms. Moore’s books are, I suspect, not ones that would offer me relief from the big bad world, but there are others–I like much of what Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Jill Shalivs write–that I do use to transport me.
Your definition of over the top sweet must differ from mine. I don’t consider books where either lead is demonized by the other person/families for things that aren’t that bad sweet. I like a lot of books on the sweeter side of romance but the hero calling the heroine a slut doesn’t spell sweet for me.
Also she’s 22. Definitely a no for me.
@Molly: This is the kind of book I call saccharine – cloyingly sweet superficially (HEA for all, everything tied up in a bow, small town faux closeness and good ol fashioned American Apple pie values) but with a decidedly nasty aftertaste.
@FD: It did not leave me with nasty aftertaste. It just bored me. And the closeness in the small town was iffy. Lots of small minded folk there who weren’t admirable.
Jade’s story certainly wasn’t the best of the bunch, but her backstory was presented to us in the first book in this series. I am curious as to why you would pick up book three in a series to review, without reading the other books first? I am admittedly anal about reading series in order, so to me this is like picking up a book and starting it at the half way point. Jade’s story is a thriving double standard, but it’s also not the worst book I have read lately. It is also saccharine, but I do think the 22 year old heroine has a lot to do with that. Age can – and does – become a factor. And yes to what Darlynne suggested too, about the underground shorthand rating of books! Great idea!!
LG, I love your comment about “Thomas Kinkade” and “sex scenes” at the same time. Now that he’s departed this world we find out that yes, there was plenty of sex in his world, now with his family trying to put a lid on his mistress. I have a feeling that what he called himself and the way the rest of the world now views him is not quite one in the same. I had to look beyond the pastel colored unicorns too, because one of the reasons I read Laura Moore is the horses. Who writes about horses anymore? Sadly, not many authors and it’s a nice change from all the human trafficking and vampires when you need to switch it up.
@Teri – I sent the book to Dabney for review. While many readers like reading a series in order (and I do), a person should not have to read all the previous books to enjoy one. Further, there are many readers not exposed to Laura Moore who might want to read her and not have access to the previous two books as this is the newest release that is out on the shelf. Finally, I don’t require any reviewer to review the previous books before writing a review which would require the time, money and effort we don’t want to expend on an unknown author.
In another thread here, for example, a reader asked if she could start with book 2 of a different series because it was the only book she had in her TBR pile. The responder replied that she could because that is exactly what the responder had done.
@Teri Perez: I review a lot of books that are parts of series; some I have read all the books, others, like in this one, I haven’t. I feel confident that, even if I had read the earlier two books in the series, I would still have the same complaints about Ms. Moore’s work. I actually think Ms. Moore did an excellent job in this book of explaining Jade’s and her sisters’ backstories. After the first chapter, the plot of the book made sense to me. I just didn’t enjoy it. As I said in my review, the Rosewood family is just too perfect for me; I didn’t like the way the romance progressed between Jade and Rob; and, in general, little about the book seemed realistic. I don’t mind non-realistic as long as I can buy into what ever version of reality an author creates. In this book, I didn’t buy the context, characters, or conclusion.
I waited very eagerly for the conclusion to the Rosewood Trilogy, and have to disagree with Dabney’s review, as Trouble Me was definitely worth the wait. If one has not read the previous books in this series, you can’t appreciate the suspense about tying up the loose ends that were created by the previous two books, and Dabney’s criticisms related directly to this lack of prior knowledge. The passion between the two former enemies was delicious; for me, having Jade and Rob work towards accepting fault with the trouble in their relationship was satisfying. I found that some of Dabney’s complaints about vetting of employees and failing to recognize one’s former arresting officer a bit nit-picky, but again, to each his own. If you’re at all interested in the fascinating evolution of a family that works itself into an integrated whole, and of course, the necessary HEA, pick up the entire Rosewood trilogy to fully appreciate the transition of the characters.