In case you missed my post last week, HelenKay Dimon writes wonderful dialogue. When her characters talk, I don’t doubt for a minute that they’re real. They’re funny and witty and sharp and real, and when I read her writing, that’s my favorite part.
This book has some wonderful dialogue (you can read an example in that entry) and reading the exchanges between Katie and Eric was easily the best part of the book.
Unfortunately, having a best part of the book also comes with a least favorite part: there’s a distinct lack of emotional conflict in this story. They meet under difficult circumstances: Eric is attending the wedding of his former long-time girlfriend Deanna, and Katie has been hired by a friend to spy on Eric, who is something of a public figure, while she works as a waitress at the wedding. She expects to watch him, then report to her friend, get paid and move on. When she sees Eric for the first time, she can’t stop looking at him – and when he notices her, well, they start noticing each other up close and personal in a quiet location at the wedding location in a big hurry. The wedding guests might have heard bells or the sound of rice hitting the pavement, but Eric and Katie heard some boom boom friction from where they were instead.
There are other issues between them as well: Katie is much younger than Eric. He’s a very politically powerful attorney in Hawaii, and she’s just figuring out who she is after years of drifting along and getting into some serious trouble. Katie’s family doesn’t necessarily trust that she’s grown up and changed for the better. Eric is up for election and is campaigning while trying to do his job.
One notable part I want to examine up front is the fact that Eric is Japanese-American, and deals with misconceptions about his culture and heritage, even from Katie.
The scenes between Katie and Eric that dealt with his cultural background were some of the more difficult and revealing scenes in the book, and made Eric a more multi-dimensional character from my perspective. He wasn’t Japanese-American because Dimon said so. There are multiple scenes that reveal his layered and sometimes conflicting cultural background, from his parents’ family and religious practices to his own career, and I had a very real sense of how being Japanese-American (his term) shaped his current perspective- and how it did not. The scenes that deal with the cultural conflicts between Katie and Eric are the most powerful emotionally, and I wish there had been more of them.
In contrast, Eric is supposed to be all twisted up about the wedding, about his feelings for Katie, about his changing goals and the troubles of having political ambitions, but while the dialogue is all tell (and very little show) and all awesome, the emotional depth of the characters is almost always told and not shown. There’s a distance to the writing that keeps me from really empathizing with the characters, especially Katie. Mostly I’m entertained by them – and that’s not a bad thing, except when unpleasant things are happening.
The biggest conflict I felt in the book was how difficult it was for Eric and Katie to keep their hands off one another, even when bigger issues were being addressed elsewhere. They are supremely attracted to each other. Like, downed wires in a puddle slicked with gasoline-style attracted. That plus the dialogue makes for a readerly good time.
But where there ought to have been tangible pain or personal conflict, there was a lot of rumination, narration, or just plain descriptive distance, and that’s where the book fell short for me. Horny pants do not a book-length conflict make, and the other issues dealt with were written in such a way (can you tell I’m trying to avoid spoilers here?) that they weren’t as real and present for me.
That said, I didn’t want to stop reading. I kept looking for the next scene with Katie and Eric, knowing it would be crackling sexy. I loved Eric’s changing understanding of himself and his goals, and the ways in which Katie changed his viewpoint in such a short (but very hot) time. I wish Katie had grown the same amount as well, but the dynamics of Eric’s character kept me hooked into this novel for a long streak of reading.