Book Review

Love on the Rocks by Pamela Yaye

DNF

Title: Love on the Rocks
Author: Pamela Yaye
Publication Info: Harlequin February 2010
ISBN: The reader spen
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book CoverI 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.”

Superficial much?

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.


Love on the Rocks is available from Amazon.com, Book Depository,Powell’s, and eHarlequin.com.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Scrin says:

    Wait, wait, wait…Sarah, when was this published? If it was in the last ten years…This adds a new bit of funny for me.

    See, when I see the name Tangela, this is what comes to mind:

    http://o.guidesmedia.ign.com/guides/12045/images/tangela.gif

    A little plant-type Pokemon from ten years ago.

    Anyway, this Warrick…I hate that male bastard just from what I saw and I *am* one.

    Edit: Too good to pass up. Spamword: I hadn’t ever seen the word ‘Tangela’ until 98. Which is when Pokemon came out.

  2. 2
    AgTigress says:

    “Tangela”: what a ridiculous name.  It sounds like a phoney, oevr-sweetened fruit-flavoured fizzy drink.

    The man thinks in cover copy!

    Practically everything you quoted from the book sounded like advertising copy to me, e.g.

    Her host mother, Ima, was weight-conscious and took great pride in preparing tasty, low-calorie meals for the family.

    .  Who really uses phrases like ‘tasty, low-calorie meals’  in ordinary verbal communication? 
    And I agree about the effortless, unconscious and unintentional weight-loss.  I hate magic in any book, which is why I avoid whole genres like fantasy, but magic in a would-be real-life contemporary is a non-starter.  The only common way of losing weight unintentionally and very fast is by means of a severe and prolonged bout of gastro-enteritis.  And of course the weight returns with normal health.

  3. 3
    CreepyKiki says:

    @Scrin
    You weren’t the only one.  I kept picturing the pokemon and Warrick from CSI.  What an odd combo.

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:

    I kept picturing the pokemon and Warrick from CSI.

    And somewhere, a fanfic site just exploded with absolute joy.

  5. 5
    Kes says:

    Leonard Butkiss?

    LEONARD BUTKISS?!?!?!?

    That is all (except that as described, he sounds like Christopher Eccleston. Rawr.).

  6. 6
    MichelleR says:

    Jude Deveraux did literal magic weight-loss in Wishes. It was another situation where the heroine was healthy before, and the hero wanted her before… It makes me think the author is being disingenuous on whether or not she really thinks a plump heroine is as good as a thin one. Or, here comes the pun, wanting to have her cake and eat it too. A hero who really, really would love the heroine anyhow were she large, but—thankfully—without the heroine actually being large.

    There’s a female basketball player named Tangela, I think. I rather like the name.

    summer69: Really? Awesome in so many ways.

  7. 7
    Amanda says:

    I just have to say that sometimes weight “magically” falling off does happen if someone changes locale and thereby lifestyle.  It happened to me when I took a summer internship with the NPS.  I went from being a student sitting a lot to literally having to bike at least 6 miles a day plus climb around 5 flights of stairs 5 times a day.  When you combine that with an intern’s food budget, my weight did literally fall off.  I lost 15 pounds in 2 weeks.  Just sayin.  It *can* happen.

  8. 8

    I dislike weight loss as plot device like this.  She lost weight and finds out that the man who dumped her when she was fat would love her at any size?  Oh, that’s sweet.  I bet it’s a whole lot easier to love someone “at any size” when they’re a size 6. 

    I’m gonna write a Blaze where the heroine gains sixty pounds and gains heaps of sexual confidence.

  9. 9
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Oh, dear.  I hate to say it, but this reads like one of my NaNoWriMo rough drafts that I would never show to anybody.

  10. 10
    MichelleR says:

    I’d read it, Jennifer. :)

  11. 11
    Brooks*belle says:

    I think I caught a few moments of snooze time in the middle of the Return-from-the-lounge-washroom-check-the-black-berry-thingy-look-at-scores scene.  Thanks! I feel refreshed! =)

  12. 12
    ocelott says:

    Why has nobody written me as a romance heroine?  I’d love to have the weight magically fall off like that.  I’d be willing to toss my head and ruminate plenty for that kind of magic.

  13. 13
    Julie says:

    Weight loss as a plot device doesn’t work for me, either. But yes, I know people who lost 15 pounds in a couple of weeks during travel overseas. One was my husband. It wasn’t just the diet, it was the exercise. He did a lot of walking.

    And it all goes right on my hips. *sigh.*

    (And the captcha is “feet43.” How apropos.)

  14. 14
    Kristina says:

    Woot!  Let the snark fly.  This is gonna be funny.  :0)

  15. 15
    FD says:

    Gaaah.  I’ve read a few Kimani romances, attempting to at least try to do something about the whitewashed romance reading, and the trademark/brand name-checking and cover copy dialogue have been an issue in all bar one of them.

  16. 16
    joykenn says:

    All the brand-name dropping makes me wonder if the author gets program placement deals…here $XXXX$ if you mention Charmin toilet paper when he goes to the washroom.  Here’s $XXXX$ if he watches a Sony TV with picture-in-picture feature.

  17. 17
    Chicklet says:

    [blank stare]

    Huh? Oh, I’m sorry. I was reflecting about my relationship with the cinnamon scone I had this morning with my coffee. It was—oops, hang on, I’ve got a call coming in on my EV3 handheld.

    [phone conversation redacted]

    As I was saying, that scone was amazing. Also, I doubt I’d be able to finish this book, either, based on the magical!weight-loss, but I’d also find it super-distracting that the hero is named Warrick. I can only assume the author wanted the reader to picture Gary Dourdan as the hero.

  18. 18

    Come on Bitches. How could you not want to read Tangela and Warrick? I mean, the Names! They just SIZZLE with possibilities! Now that I know the Pokemon connection it’s even more enticing! How can you pass on the possibility that Warrick is really an ancient Earl come back from defending the Queen (or was he plotting against her?) to make all right in the world for Tangela, who somehow escaped from a grubby stack of cards that went through the washing machine cuz his mom TOOK HIS JEANS off the floor when he wasn’t looking and that Tangela one fled to Harlequin’s fond embrace! If only SBSarah hadn’t forewarned me…

  19. 19
    Laurel says:

    I had no idea that they made iPhones and Blackberries that weren’t handheld. Hmmm.

    The best “weight falls off” I’ve ever seen in a book was Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed where the heroine delivers her baby prematurely after a trauma and spends weeks just walking for no other reason than escape. She finally looks the way she always wanted but only because she is wretchedly miserable and afraid for her child. Weight loss explained AND it did not magically make the heroine’s life perfect to find that she was suddenly thin. In fact, she didn’t even care.

    However, in real life…I have experienced the “weight falls off” phenomenon. So has my mom. I chalked mine up to something mysterious and hormonal…sometime in the baby’s second year food turned into a chore instead of a pleasure. I dropped 40 lbs, which actually wasn’t a great thing since my starting weight was healthy. Of amazon stature and a size 4 makes you look vaguely insectile plus nothing that fits is long enough.

    Soooo…magical weight loss is not a deal breaker for me. Magical weight loss to drive an entire plot? Problematic. Add in crappy writing and I think I’ll pass.

  20. 20

    iPhone handheld? BlackBerry handheld? Really? Who says that?

    Years and years ago, when I subscribed to Writers Digest, they used to run ads from companies trying to protect their trademarks.  The ads insisted that writers shouldn’t have characters dry their tears with a Kleenex; they should use a Kleenex-brand facial tissue.  And no one should apply disinfectant to a knife wound with a Q-tip, they should use Q-tip brand cotton swabs. 

    I’m betting the “handheld” is part of some mandate to protect trademarks.

  21. 21
    AgTigress says:

    I’m gonna write a Blaze where the heroine gains sixty pounds and gains heaps of sexual confidence.

    Go for it!

    Okay, I now believe that one can lose a stone (14 pounds) in a fortnight (two weeks) by eating very little and exercising intensely.  But I don’t think it happens too often. 
    :-)

  22. 22
    Cat Marsters says:

    Jude Deveraux did literal magic weight-loss in Wishes. It was another situation where the heroine was healthy before, and the hero wanted her before…

    Ah, but the point there was that her fairy godmother assumed that being skinny would make the heroine happy, without bothering to find out what was actually making her unhappy in the first place (it wasn’t her weight, although I do recall she had a beautiful sister who sniped at her about it). Of course, the weight magically dropping off didn’t make her any happier, and neither did it hasten her happy ever after with a hero who rather liked her with the extra weight. In fact, it only served to make both hero and heroine rather confused!

    As for ‘Tangela’ my eyes bugged out at the name. I pictured an ordinary girl called Angela, at whom someone threw a load of orange paint and yelled, “You know when you’ve been Tangoed!”

  23. 23
    MichelleR says:

    Yep, I recall it was her fairy godmother at work and missing the point, but it still read to me like a device to make her thin without acknowledging the weight as being a negative. Yes, the heroine didn’t want it, but it wasn’t reversed either. Wasn’t it also impossible for her to gain weight? Could be misremembering. I think that speaks to how conflicted women feel. Ah, but Jude Deveraux books do tend to fixate on food and eating.

  24. 24
    Danielle says:

    I’m still stuck on Tangela.  Its making me think of the Tangeloes that my sister-in-law eats.  Although if Gwenith Paltrow can name her kid Apple someone else can name theirs Tangelo, oops I mean Tangela.

  25. 25
    Tina C. says:

    Re: Tangela

    I think my daughter went to school with a Tangela.  Still sounds like that Sinbad skit about naming the kids after things found in your medicine cabinet.

  26. 26
    robinjn says:

    As someone who has struggled with self-esteem related to weight most of my life, I cannot tell you HOW much I HATE weight used as a plot device. All my life, it’s been drummed into my head that skinny = beautiful and fat = not just ugly, but ugly, sloppy, and lazy (why else would someone “let themselves get fat”?)

    Hence though I was a very thin child, and practically emaciated in my 20s and early 30s, I was never happy with my weight. Then as age happened, so did pounds. For the past three years I’ve been working very hard on getting fit and active and I have taken off 35 pounds, but that’s beside the point. The thing I’ve worked hardest on is trying not to make weight affect my confidence or self-esteem, which is much more difficult. And I do have more weight I need to take off, and it’s hard not to obsess about it or get disappointed when, at almost 50, the pounds not only don’t melt off, they sit there and glare at me with mocking grins.

    Anyway, yes, you can take 12 pounds off in two weeks. But fast weight loss is not safe or permanent weight loss. One thing I’ve learned in my journey is that diets don’t work, and that if you really want to be slimmer slow, gradual weight loss is the way to do it. Never more than 2 pounds per week, max. Not unless you want it back, plus more, a few years down the line.

  27. 27
    Ros says:

    Right, that’s it.  Time to start penning my magical weight-gain novel in which size-0 model, Tangerina, magically turns into a size 22W model overnight.  And boy does she look fabulous!  So much so that her high-school sweetheart, Coventry, who stopped dating her because he was scared he was going to break her by mistake, gets back in touch via his Apple Tablet (other medicinal computing devices are available).  They end up staying in a house made from mirrors, enabling them to spend all day reflecting on Tangerina’s newfound curves and enormous bosoms.  Happy ever after.

  28. 28
    Amanda from Baltimore says:

    I once read a book (a thriller) where everything the hero ate, wore, drove, or drank, was named by brand. “Hero” rolled out of his IKEA Schnorrer bed in the morning, slipped into his Levi Jeans and his Gap tshirt, drank some Sunny Delite, and left the house in his T-bird. It was the most distracting thing.
    I worked at a bookstore, and the guy came to do a reading, and it turns out he did it on purpose, to get support for the book. The ‘hero’  drank a particular brand of scotch, and that ACTUAL COMPANY gave him bottles of scotch so that his readings were also scotch tastings. I assume he approached all the other companies too, about ‘sponsorships.’ I loathed him, his book, and the whole idea that the book was just a vehicle for advertising.

    I have never read a Kimani book, and this doesn’t really encourage me to experiment there.

  29. 29
    Bibliophile says:

    Just to comment on the weight loss issue: I can confirm that the weight loss described in the book is possible.  I lost 55 pounds all in all over a period of about 8 months away from home, most of it because of increased exercise, less candy and soda consumption and the low-calorie food they served at the school I was attending. The final 15 or so pounds (which I could not afford to lose) melted away in two long bouts of traveller’s stomach bug. However, when I got back home, I put all of it back on over the course of 3 years. I wonder if that happens to the heroine? (somehow I doubt it)

  30. 30
    Chicklet says:

    I loathed him, his book, and the whole idea that the book was just a vehicle for advertising.

    Ugh. The late Olivia Goldsmith did something similar with The Bulgari Connection, in which she received money for mentioning the jewelry company in the book a certain number of times. I’ll put up with advertising in magazines, but not in novels.

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