RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: A Bravo Homecoming by Christine Rimmer

D

Title: A Bravo Homecoming
Author: Christine Rimmer
Publication Info: Harlequin 2011
ISBN: 9780373656325
Genre: Contemporary Romance

A Bravo Homecoming This review was written by Crysta. This story was nominated in the Best Contemporary Series Romance category.

The summary:     

Travis Bravo was sick of his meddling mother and her matchmaking ways. So what better way to stop her than to bring a fiancée home for the holidays? One catch—he wasn't even dating anyone.

But that was where his rough-and-tumble oil-rig friend, Samantha Jaworski, came in. An unpolished tomboy, Sam was game for anything for a good friend. But after her girlfriend-ready makeover, she fell easily into the role of Travis's loving partner—and into his arms.

Would she be standing under his mistletoe…for keeps?

And here is Crysta's review:

I am not a petite and delicate woman. I am 5’8”, 150, and I have big feet. I make grunting noises when I’m doing something difficult. I have calluses on my hands. I don’t get my body waxed, and quite frankly, I can’t imagine paying someone to inflict that pain on me. I even swear sometimes. This is all okay.

Sam Jaworski isn’t a petite and delicate woman either – that is, until she goes through a week-long womanifying in order to help her oil-rig co-worker and longtime friend Travis Bravo convince his mother that they are engaged so Mama Bravo will get off Travis’ back about finding a woman which she has been doing ever since his fiancee tragically died in a car accident eight years ago and he’s never been able to make it work with someone else except that one girl Wanda who he pushed away because he just wasn’t ready for love…

Anyway.

Why can’t Sam go as her tall, strong, loud, swearing (well, “frickin’”), not-know-which-fork-to-use self? She thinks that maybe, at thirty, she wants to get off the oil rigs, where she has risen to the top as tool pusher, proving herself as strong, capable, and willing to kick ass whenever needed. These traits, she thinks, plus her inability (/disinterest) in wearing make-up, shopping, and “feeling like a woman,” will keep her from getting a good office job, like in accounting, her new dream field.

As you may already be able to tell, I question Sam’s logic. But let’s get back to the summary.

So, on Travis’ dime (he’s old-Texas-money-rich, you know), Sam spends a week in the Four Seasons with a Carson-from-Queer-Eye-type gay superstylist who oversees the waxing, the shopping, the language transformation (out goes “frickin’,” in goes “lovely”), and the general overhaul from ungainly grotesque man-woman to smooth, stylish, supermodel woman.

As you can expect, Travis has trouble now only seeing Sam as his rough-and-tumble friend. Almost instantly, his loins are burning (or something like that). Sam’s are too – she can sense his new feelings (they lock eyes a lot) and it makes her think “Oh. Huh. He is kinda hot, isn’t he?”

And off they go to the Bravo Ranch, a sprawling mansion outside of San Antonio where all of Travis’ gigantic family has gathered for Thanksgiving as well as the renewal of Travis’ parents’ vows. They have sex (duh), Travis proposes for real, Sam says yes, they get married before Christmas. HAE, the end, awww.

Throughout it all, Sam has misgivings and hesitations and fears. Is this new person really her? Is this all going way too fast? (YES.) Is it weird that Travis keeps pushing that they get married in two weeks right here at the ranch and then immediately try to stop popping out babies? (YES.) But, of course, Travis’ manly love sweeps those fears aside.

 

I spent a lot of time as I read this book scrawling indignant comments to reference for this review. Most of them have to do with Sam – how she can’t see that her years at the top of a demanding and dangerous profession will impress any smart employer; how she completely lets go of whomever she may have been before this transformation; how she allows herself and her feelings to be subsumed into her new life with Travis. By the end, I couldn’t tell if she had actually been an awesome, strong, not-cookie-cutter woman before or if I had just imagined/projected it onto her.

Also, she’s thirty, and she’s only had sex with one guy, one time (before the love god Travis), and of course it was horrific. I know that this is standard romance fare, but honestly. I may have to quit romance because I am getting really tired of female characters who show up with only fear or innocence regarding sex. Hands up if you had feelings of pleasure associated with sex by the time you met someone you eventually fell in love with? Maybe I’m being too hopeful, but my hand is up and I don’t think I’m alone.

[off soapbox]

Right, so that’s Sam. Our hero, Travis, starts off as a pretty normal guy – maybe you’re friends with this guy. He works a corporate job but isn’t a slime ball. He’s handsome and a little country and he loves his family. He’s got an enormous trust fund that he hasn’t touched yet because he wants to make his own way. (Wait… if you know this guy, I might suggest spending a week making yourself more womanly.) Travis also makes a nice hero because he has this past – eight years ago, his fiancee died in a tragic car accident when a drunk driver hit her car, killing her instantly. So we know he can love and we know he’s got some pain to work through and maybe what he needs is someone who’s been there all along!

The trouble with Travis (if you’ve picked up on this review’s theme at all, you knew this was coming) is that the depth of emotion that is possible for him never quite appears. Oddly enough, we hardly get any of Travis’ thoughts first-hand. The book starts from his POV, shifts to Sam’s for the transformation week, and then only rarely goes back to Travis for the rest of the book. I kept really wanting to hear what he had to say – how weird it may seem to see his long-time friend looking so different, how surprising and strange it was to suddenly have feelings for her he hadn’t had before, how difficult he’s really finding all this since he never really mourned his fallen fiancee – but I was left in suspense.

So we’ve got a heroine that I couldn’t agree with and who didn’t ring true to me and a hero that seems right up my alley on the one hand but unknowable on the other – that already takes the book, for me, down to a C. Add to it that their relationship as we see it seems to consist of nothing but sex – they do talk on the phone quite a bit towards the end but we get no details of what they might say to each other for three hours – and we’re already at a D.

Lastly, this was my first Bravo romance – in fact, being quite new to romance in general and an actual noob to contemporary romance, I had no idea that this book was related to other books in any way. I did start to get the hint, though, when there were odd paragraphs or passages talking about Travis’ uncountable family members. For example, in the middle of a section about Sam and Travis having breakfast with Travis’ parents, we get these paragraphs:

“Some of the Bravo family relationships were…interesting, to say the least.

Elena and Mercy were very close. Mainly because Elena was not only his [who is this male pronoun referring to?] illegitimate daughter, but she was also Mercy’s sister, though not by blood. Mercy had been adopted at the age of twelve by Elena’s mom, Luz, and Luz’s husband, Javier.

In fact, until just a few years ago, everyone except Luz had believed that Javier Cabrera was Elena’s natural father. When the truth came out, there had been big trouble in both families. That was when Travis’s dad and mom had separated. Luz and Javier had lived apart, too.”

Um… yeah. If you don’t already know and love the Bravos, this little sum up of the lives of Travis’s family members is strange, at best. At its worst, it is a sort-of confusing waste of time that could be spent showing real growth and development in the romantic leads and their relationship.

I am the lone naysayer of this book on Goodreads – I felt a little bad dishing out my one star and my shorter, yet no more positive, review. Similarly, I struggle with criticizing Christine Rimmer who has done a remarkable thing by creating a family that has intrigued and delighted enough people to allow her to write about this family as her career – a career of which I am desperately jealous. Unfortunately, my admiration for the author and my deep-seeded desire to be seen as kind can’t overpower my ultimate disappointment in this book.

 


This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    bjvl says:

    This book series sounds like a collection of the most ham-handed 1950s tropes. Thank you for taking the hit for me and road testing this thing. ‘Cause it sounds *awful*.

  2. 2
    Mom_on_the_Run2001 says:

    I used to buy every one of the Bravo books, but not lately. I lost track of them and they sort of became pop up characters. Kind of like Cathy Gillen Thacker (?) and the cowboy family that was a really good series about 4 brothers looking for wives and then just got out of hand. While I love interconnected stories, in these 2 instances it just went past interesting into desperately searching for a storyline.

  3. 3
    RebeccaJ says:

    I read this book and I was okay with it—personally I think the series should have ended long ago as it’s too hard to keep track of who’s who—but it’s funny when you read something that you can’t stand while everyone around you seems to love it. I just read A Rancher’s Hired Fiancee and HATED it, but everyone else was giving it good reviews, so I sat there thinking “is it them or is it me?” LOL!

  4. 4
    TiceB says:

    “He works a corporate job but isn’t a slime ball.” Um. Wow. What a wealth of prejudice that sentence contains.

  5. 5
    Lori says:

    Holy gender essentialism Batman! I love romance novels, but the make-over story is not one of the reasons why. I’ve read some good ones, in which the make over is a demonstration of a character really coming into her own. However, far too many of the ones I’ve seen are like this one, built on a very narrow definition of “womanly” and implicitly pushing the idea that there’s really only one kind of woman who can attract a man and find love. I hate that.

  6. 6
    Kelly (KKJ) says:

    I wouldn’t call it prejudice – in Romancelandia, if you’re not the Billionaire CEO, you’re the Evil Corporate Villain. I think anyone who works on an oil rig – especially a woman – is going to view any guy in a suit suspiciously.

    Great review, Chrysta!

  7. 7
    Kim says:

    Are you one of those advocates for the social welfare of rich people?  Like, rich people need to be protected from prejudice…as if they are oppressed in society.  Why don’t you worry about groups that actually face prejudice…like the poor and disenfranchised minorities.

    Seriously, there are non-profit groups that are actually advocating for this stuff.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsal…

    Really, this is a review of a hackneyed romance novel, not a political treatise.

  8. 8
    Ren says:

    That you overlook the wealth of WTF delineated in the review to take umbrage on Mr. Corporate’s behalf reveals your own prejudice.

    Everybody’s got one, and yours isn’t superior to anyone else’s.

  9. 9
    MorganAvery says:

    Yes, yes Crysta, yes. I too signed up to review this book for the RITA challenge and have failed in my duties because I just can’t finish it. (Forgive me, Sarah.) The review in my head started with “If you liked Pretty Woman you’ll love this book. I, however, friggin’ hate Pretty Woman and everything it stands for. Or should I say ‘frickin’.” Uch. I hated, HATED (what I read of) this book, and you pretty much said everything I feel needs to be said about it, and said it well. Thank you!

  10. 10
    Sandra says:

    These traits, she thinks, plus her inability (/disinterest) in wearing make-up, shopping, and “feeling like a woman,” will keep her from getting a good office job, like in accounting, her new dream field.

    Um… I’m an accountant. I wear no make-up, jeans and tennis shoes to work. The one is not a prerequisite for the other. And accounting, other than junior staff or data entry positions, is not a walk-in-off-the-street kind of job. You have to have a minimum of 5 years of college just to sit for the CPA exam.

  11. 11
    Christine Rimmer says:

    Umm, actually, Sandra.  She does plan to go to college to be an accountant.  In no way is it ever implied in the book that she would simply walk in off the street and get an accounting job armed only with a cool makeover.

  12. 12
    MorganAvery says:

    Ohhhhh man Christine Rimmer commented and now I feel like a jerk for being a jerk.

  13. 13
    Christine Rimmer says:

    MorganAvery, nawww.  No worries, honestly.  :)

  14. 14
    Sandy James says:

    I love how you’re doing two very different reviews of the same books for some of the Rita nominees! You’ve helped me tremendously since my April Carina release has received the same sort of “bi-polar” response. Readers/reviewers either love it or hate it based on their response to my heroine because she’s such a strong character. I don’t feel so not alone now. :)

    Congratulations to all the Rita nominees! That’s quite an accomplishment! 

  15. 15
    Crysta Swarts says:

    Thanks, Kelly! :)

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