I have been monster busy and therefore craving Harlequins for reading – but this one I couldn’t get through, no matter how many times I told myself that maybe after a few more pages the book would pick up and get better. I had to stop about halfway through.
Tangela and Warrick were together for seven years before a messy and painful breakup, one that they’ve apparently never talked about. When Tangela shows up on the cover of People magazine’s weight loss issue, showing off a very trim and a very sexy confident new self, she and Warrick find themselves in each other’s worlds again, and find a second chance to fix what went wrong.
Unfortunately, a whole mess of a lot went wrong before I even got to the middle of the book.
The reader spends way too much time in Warrick’s head, and it doesn’t make for much heroism when he has loving thoughts like the following:
“Leonard Butkiss had a face only a mother could love. Wide eyes, large ears, and a slightly crooked nose. Warrick didn’t know anything about the guy, but Tangela deserved to be with someone strong and athletic and rich. Like him.”
How do I reconcile that lovely bit of arrogance with the man who keeps thinking in bewilderment that Tangela was beautiful before she lost all the weight, and she was fine the way she was? And while I’m on the subject of Tangela’s weight loss, here’s her recounting of the change as she gets all ticked off that People magazine dared intimate that she had an eating addiction:
She was fit and fabulous whether she was a size eighteen or a size ten. Just because the editorial staff didn’t believe her didn’t mean it wasn’t true. She’d lost the weight without even trying. Having been to Guadalajara numerous times, she’d felt comfortable walking from her host family’s house to the institute where she taught English classes and studied Spanish.
Her host mother, Ima, was weight-conscious and took great pride in preparing tasty, low-calorie meals for the family. Three weeks after arriving in Mexico, Tangela had lost twelve pounds. Six months later, she was down to a size fourteen and by the end of the year, she was at the lowest weight she’d ever been.
This is a real pet peeve of mine in fictional universes. What the fuck planet do people live on where the weight “just falls off?” Unless we’re talking medical problems, twelve pounds in three weeks?! Come on now, and I mean it. It can be alarmingly easy to gain weight, but for that same person, trying to lose it can be so very very difficult. I don’t admire a heroine who blithely ruminates that the weight just disappeared while she wasn’t looking. I want to smack her with something containing a lot of mass. Like a recliner. What’s the problem, is being overweight some kind of moral failing that can’t be overcome with studious and deliberate weight loss? It has to magically happen, like she was never overweight to begin with? Goddammit, that blithe Magically Thin “Oops! I did it and have no idea how!” weight loss trope bugs the shit out of me.
Anyway, back to the book: MY GOD IS THERE A LOT OF RUMINATION going on. I’m amazed Tangela and Warrick didn’t walk into things while being wrapped in reverie. Every time there’s a bit of backstory needed, one of the protagonists starts reflecting:
Staring at Tangela, Warrick reflected on their seven-year relationship.
That’s a long relationship. He’ll be staring at her for awhile.
Then there’s the dialogue and the incredibly bizarre descriptions:
“After using the washroom, he wandered into the lounge and sat down. The inviting decor, padded leather booths and lively music created a relaxing atmosphere. Pressing his BlackBerry handheld to his ear, he listened to his messages. Making a mental note to return the calls later, Warrick slid the phone into his pocket and stared up at one of the flat-screen TVs.
He checked the score of the Mariners game, relieved to see his team was beating the Yankees. An American Airlines commercial came on and he thought of Tangela. He wondered if she was out with her friends. On the weekend, she liked to go with her coworkers to the Karaoke Hut for cocktails. Singing off-key and encouraging others to do the same was something he couldn’t get behind, but Tangela always seemed to enjoy herself.”
Currently I am sitting in my nondescript desk chair typing on my QWERTY keyboard into Microsoft Windows, and I’m hitting the capslock key to type, HEY! YOU!! WAKE UP!!!11!!!
What’s puzzling, on top of that passage above, is that later he has a different handheld. Warrick gets all ticked off because Tangela has his sport coat. She doesn’t understand why he’s chasing her down for it when he has several others:
“I’m sure you could live without it for a few more days.”
“You’re right, I could – if my iPhone handheld wasn’t in the breast pocket.”
iPhone handheld? BlackBerry handheld? Really? Who says that?
Finally, what drove me over the edge was the repeated habit of so much telling and not enough showing. Not NEARLY enough showing. And, in addition, the telling was so inconsistent I couldn’t trust the point of view of either protagonists. For example, Warrick looks at Tangela in a restaurant:
“Everyone inside the restaurant was dressed in their Sunday best, but Tangela had glammed it up as though she was going to a movie premiere. The yellow pantsuit matched her bright disposition and she was wearing her hair the way he liked, up off her shoulders, gathered in an elegant French roll with slim curls grazing her ears. The sexy flight attendant lived life beautifully and looked damn good doing it.”
The man thinks in cover copy!
Watching Tangela fiddle with her necklace, he realized he’d never really appreciated what she’d meant to him. She’d always been a prize, but now she had the three Bs-beauty, brains and brilliance.
So now that she’s lost weight, she’s even better? I thought he was dumbfounded and sad that she’d felt the need to change herself so much. That’s what he said in the first chapter when he reflected on it for awhile.
The major elements of the story drew me to this book immediately. A heroine who is so changed, having lost so much weight, that she appears on the cover of People’s annual weight loss issue, and thus brings her ex-boyfriend back into her life? Second chance stories? With makeover elements? I’m down with that.
But I can’t figure out how these people maintained a relationship for seven years because they just don’t talk to one another. They’re reflecting and wandering around in the midst of a reverie instead. They misunderstood each other repeatedly, and even seeing both sides of their backstories from their respective points of view didn’t endear me to either of them. Warrick never recovers even halfway into the book from being shallow, conceited, superficial and inconsistent in his ruminations on Tangela’s hotness. Tangela is either terribly selfish and cruel: she left Warrick because he didn’t have enough time for her… while he was taking over the family business for his father after a massive health crisis, and while his father was still in the hospital. At the time of their breakup, I suspect both parties were in desperate need of some growing up. They both need more time in the crock pot of life experience, but I don’t have the patience to endure reading any more of their reflections.