RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan

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Title: Crazy Little Thing
Author: Tracy Brogan
Publication Info: Montlake 2012
ISBN: 9781612186009
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Crazy Little thing This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by Karen. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book category.

The summary:     

Sadie Turner can organize just about anything — except her own life. When her cheating spouse topples Sadie’s impeccably tidy world, she packs up her kids for a summer vacation at her aunt’s lake house, hoping to relax, reboot, and formulate a new plan — one that does not include men.

Any men.

But eccentric Aunt Dody has other plans; she’s determined to see Sadie have a little fun—with Desmond, the sexy new neighbor. Tall, tanned, muscular—and even great with her kids, Desmond is Sadie’s worst nightmare. He must have a flaw—he’s a man, after all—so Sadie vows to keep her distance. But as summer blazes on, their attraction ignites, and the life Sadie is trying so hard to simplify only gets more complicated. But maybe a little chaos is just what she needs to get her future, and her dreams of love, back in order.

And here is Karen's review:

So, I really struggled to finish Crazy Little Thing.  I wouldn't have finished it except for the RITA Challenge.  In an attempt to organise my screaming frustration and boredom into some coherence I have created a list.  Scarily, this is the chopped, short version of my rant.  Also, beware of spoilers: hiding the spoilers would cut out half the review so I gave up flagging them pretty quickly.

10 Reasons I Hated Crazy Little Thing

1). The Heroine. I've read a few books recently where the heroine has been Done Wrong by the Jerk Ex Boyfriend/Husband (JEB).  In itself, I don't have a problem with this but I find it tricky when this seems to be a short-hand for why I should like/sympathise with the heroine.  I struggled because I wanted to feel sympathy for her:  no one deserves to be cheated on by their partner.  However, I found her dislikeable enough that, if the JEB hadn't been truly awful I might have felt sympathy for him instead.  Sadie spends the first half of the novel wallowing in self-pity, saying one thing but doing another (yes, I know unreliable narrators are powerful but I did not sense that was the purpose here) and being pretty selfish.  She says mean things, apologises and is forgiven, then says mean things again.  She judges and misjudged the people around her harshly, feeling superior to them all.  She also seems pretty useless – her cousin cooks, her other cousin finds her a career, her aunt gives her a home.  She does lots of stupid things but never seems to learn from them (I think they are supposed to be funny but I was too busy getting frustrated with Sadie to laugh).  I should admit that I prefer characters with at least a little self-awareness and if you don't mind a lack of self-awareness you probably won't have the problems I did with the heroine.  I like reading incredibly flawed characters, providing they are either interesting (usually a villain or anti-hero) or they grow/improve/redeem themselves. In the book, Sadie does 2 things which I think were supposed to be selfless but neither really convinced me.

The first thing she does is give her cousin her old wedding/engagement ring to exchange for a ring when he proposes to his girlfriend.  However, whilst this is generous (she could have sold the ring) it doesn't feel like a sacrifice because she never seems worried about money and doesn't want the ring.  I mean, she really doesn't want it!  The second thing she does is help organise Dody's birthday party at shorter notice than she wanted to.  To put this in perspective: Dody has invited Sadie and Sadie's children to stay for months, apparently rent free, has looked after them, pushed Sadie to stop moping after JEB, put up with Sadie's constant superiority complex (which is directed more at Dody than anyone else).  Dody then asks for her birthday party to be organised earlier than usual.  Cue much whining (not just from Sadie).  Sadie and her cousins only agree to this when it transpires that Dody has cancer.  Er… If I have insisted/volunteered to organise a birthday party for someone then I would expect to organise it for when they want.  Even if they don't have a potentially life-threatening illness.

2.  The Hero.  OK, I didn't hate the hero.  There wasn't enough of him to hate.  He is gorgeous, a doctor, cheerful, forgiving (maybe too forgiving), athletic, smart …  What I did hate was his so-called friends' reaction to his Tragic Flaw (TM).  It turns out that this paragon has been aimlessly wandering the country, serving as a dependable locum doctor wherever there is a need, ever since he was Done Wrong by a woman.  For the insanely long time of … 2 years.  Of course, his friends have been worrying themselves sick at how broken he is and are so grateful to the heroine as they can see she will be the one to cure him so he can finally settle down.  All through the text big hints are dropped about the hero's inability to commit, to stay anywhere, his big, dark secret. 

Maybe this is a cultural thing which, being British, I just don't get.  A guy becoming a locum doctor for a couple of years doesn't seem that big a problem to me.  So what did JEBbie do to turn him into this unreliable, flighty shell of a man for?  She had an abortion without discussing/telling him beforehand, despite knowing he wanted children.  I completely agree that this was absolutely out of order.  And, not to harp on or anything, but a year or two, trying to find a new home after a betrayal like that does not seem massively unreasonable!  But, I did have an issue with the very strong subtext that abortion = bad.  See also points 5 and 9 for linked issues as abortion is such an emotive issue I do not feel I can do it justice here, especially given the rantiness of this review.

2.5). Sneaking an extra point in here under the guise of a rhetorical question.  What is it with the pantomime villains here?  Also, did both protagonists have to have a JEB character in their immediate relationship past?  Couldn't one of them have had a nice-but-not-right-for-me partner?

3.  The prose.  Sorry, I know loads of people have loved it.  And I do appreciate it that the author tried to be imaginative with her language.  However, there was just too much for me.  It was like being bashed over the head with simile after metaphor after simile.  Here is one example from page 85 on my kindle.  The hero, heroine and 2 children are swimming outdoors.  It should be noted that the heroine has repeatedly tried to get her little plot moppets children to swim and they have refused.  The hero doesn't even need to ask: they are begging to swim with him, such is his awesomeness! (Please ignore that strange grinding noise: it is merely my gritted teeth) QUOTE:

And now, thanks to this man from Atlantis, they were frolicking like little Nemos.

… {skip less than 3 lines}

Not that they were paying me the least bit of attention since Des the Superhero was there.    They were magnets to the Man of Steel.

“Come on, guys, give Des some space.  You're like carbuncles.”  I pleaded. {she means barnacles which becomes clear over the next half a page}

 

So, we have 2 similes and 2 metaphors (I'm generously counting Superhero and Man of Steel as a single instance) in around ten lines of text.  This was not a lone instance or single extreme example either.  This will boil down to personal preference but it was simply too much for me.

4.  Gay stereotypes.  I will start with something I liked: with the exception of JEB everyone else is openly accepting of homosexuality in the story.  I was pleased to see it treated as the norm, with only the 'villain' displaying homophobia and this homophobia explicitly used to reinforce what a terrible person JEB is.  However, did the homosexuals in the book have to be interior designers?  Did Sadie's gay cousin have to be the one to give her the obligatory make-over?  I know this is a minor peeve and if I'd enjoyed the story one that would have annoyed me but not been a deal-breaker, however it contributed to my overall dislike of this book.

5.  Slut-shaming.  So, every time Sadie has lascivious thoughts she treats them as something to be ashamed of.  When her family encourage her to have a sex-life she pretends she isn't interested and acts ashamed about having a sex-drive.  When she is jealous of a beautiful woman she calls her a 'whore'.  An extremely large part of Sadie's condemnation of Dody is because Sadie thinks Dody is too promiscuous.  When Sadie and the hero finally start getting it on and she has an orgasm she then flees because she is ashamed.  Even when she begins to enjoy herself there is still this undercurrent that she is being bad in some way.

6. The over-use of the 'misunderstanding' plot.  Yes, I admit that once is often enough for me to consider it over-use but this book truly does have a lot of misunderstanding.  Plus, no other real plot.  Here be (more) spoilers:

Sadie flirts outrageously with Fontaine's obviously gay boss, ignoring all of Fontaine's attempts to subtlety stop her.  Cue much eye-rolling hilarity.

Sadie thinks the hero is involved/going to be involved with the beautiful woman who comes over to talk to them during their first dinner.  She then gets rat-arsed, burst into tears and goes home to nurse a grudge against the hero for his villainy in politely saying hello back to the woman.  Obviously, it was actually nothing.

The hero tells Sadie he cannot meet her one evening as his cousin is coming to stay overnight.  Sadie then spies on him (see below), sees him with a beautiful woman and gets angry/sulks.  Again, it (eventually) turns out that the hero's cousin was a woman, in fact the beautiful woman she saw.  Shock!!!

Sadie gets upset because the hero has clearly left her forever, without saying goodbye, even thought he actual, temporary, reason was extremely clearly spoken about in front of her.

7.  Don't these people have boundaries?  So, I admit I quite like reading those stories set in the US with sprawling family/friends who get in each other's business all the time.  I imagine all families/friendships in the US are exactly like that.  No?  Well, one more bubble burst….  

Anyway, I can enjoy those sort of stories, even if my reserved British soul sometimes finds it a little too much.  But, there were two occasions where I felt that the heroine's behaviour massively crossed the line.  The first was when the hero, Des, asks her to house-sit and sign for a delivery.  Not only does Sadie decide to rearrange his furniture – because her cousin Fontaine has told her she is an Organiser and this is her Career now – she also begins to snoop a little.  Fortunately, the parcel arrives before she can snoop too much and then the cat scares her off.  But seriously?  Abuse of trust much?  The second is where she (and Fontaine) spy on Des and his 'cousin'.  Des has shown himself to be trustworthy over and over again but she spies on him without any real qualms.

8.  Least-subtle-hints/foreshadowing ever.  So, ignoring all the small times this happens there are two major events towards the end of the book which were extremely obvious much earlier on.  Firstly, Sadie is present when Des is invited to participate in a boat race at the end of the Summer.  It is obvious that this will be a Major Plot Point and lo-and-behold Sadie conveniently forgets about this when she panics that Des has abandoned her without saying goodbye.  The cad.  Secondly, it is obvious that Dody has a major medical condition (and yes, if you guessed cancer then you were right) but this comes as an enormous shock to the entire family, despite the clunking hints dropped previously.  Again, sometimes I like knowing what will happen before the characters in a book know/before it actually happens, however I was not being drawn to read on due to the characterisation, emotional conflict etc. So, in those cases I expect the drive to finish a book to come from wanting to know the ending: if you have guessed the ending then what is the point?

9.  Dody's cancer.  Now, as my mother died of cancer two years ago, after an incredibly long and valiant struggle, I admit that cancer is a sensitive issue for me, especially in books.  I admired Dody's pragmatic attitude towards the disease but found the point of it in the story puzzling.  Was it supposed to show how loving her family was?  If so, I am not impressed by one party (which turns into a snafu anyway, because obviously Sadie couldn't possibly put her enormous ego to the side for one night).  Honestly, I felt like the author was trying to manipulate the reader's feelings as the cancer was so tacked onto the story.  I imagined that she said to herself,

 

“Hmmm…  I've got to the bit where Des has left to go sailing and stupid Sadie has forgotten that she knew he was doing so and thinks he has left her.  I need something to draw out the tension whilst we wait for Des to return, because otherwise the tension will last for 2 sentences, telling the reader it is a week later.  I know, let's have Dody discover she has cancer.  That always makes people emotional.”

 

Thinking about it, it was the facile treatment of issues in this book which got to me, so maybe I should rename this point 'Surface issues'.  To name a few we have: losing friends due to a relationship break-down; abortion; homophobia; cancer.  But, all of these are barely skated across.  I love reading funny books and don't expect those books to deal with weighty topics.  However, if they do, then I want them to be dealt with decently and to be integral to the plot.  For example, Kristan Higgins' 'Just One of the Boys' made me laugh, then made me bawl my eyes out towards the end.  The issues around love and sacrifice and family were weighty but integral to the book.  Here, not so much.

10.  The HEA.  At this point, the book could have redeemed itself because the whole point of reading a romance is for the HEA.  However, despite my best efforts I simply don't believe it.  The HEA falls down on 2 counts for me.  Firstly, I don't believe that Des and Sadie are actually in love.  The progressed through Insta-lust, through trivial misunderstandings, to sex and now love.  I didn't believe there was any connection and I didn't believe they would make it through any difficult times.  Secondly, when their relationship inevitably falls apart I don't believe that Sadie will act any better, do anything differently, show more self-reliance: in short, I don't believe that she has grown or changed at all.  For me, a HEA needs at least one of those two elements: either I believe that the hero and heroine truly love each other, forever; or I believe that they love each other now and that one or both of the protagonists is better/stronger because of finding each other or the trials they have faced coming together.


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