I believe I asked myself the same publicly on Facebook. The big question of what to do when you’re torn between being honest – which is a big must for me – and nicer than you should to avoid hurting the author’s feelings. This is not something that happens to me often, and I certainly don’t enjoy it, but the truth is something I greatly value in my reviews, and I can’t lie without getting out of line. I’m not that good of an actress, sorry.
So, with that cleared, let’s talk about this book, ok? At first glance, it seems like a nice, cozy Christmas read. The cover is sweet and romantic, making you long for some loving of your own – the kind of loving that needs no more than a hug in the snow, while you and your significant other are all bundled up and flushed from the cold. The blurb itself shows a unique plot, and supposedly strong 3D characters – hell if I don’t find the idea of falling in love after being needed as proxy with the other “unfortunate” soul that has to do this with you pretty awesome! – and an amazing setting to get this all to work out – I blame Nora Roberts for my obsession with small towns in the countryside, and I’m not even a US citizen! And the book is the first of a series where most of the participants of the main couples know each other – another NR favorite I picked up over the years, which had me actually praying to God to win this particular ARC (yes, I went as far as pray to get a book, I was this hooked).
And then it all fell to pieces…
Ingrid and Kristian wish to get married, but, due to their current jobs and locations, they can’t be present to their own wedding. This is where our main couple, Sam Kelley and Jenny Lindstrom, step in. These two have to act as proxies in their loved ones’ wedding ceremony. But fate makes it so that Sam is late, and they have to wait a full weekend before trying again. A weekend that will be unforgettable – and eye-opening for both of them.
This is a strong, EXTREME case of “heroine destroys the whole story”! There! I said it! (God, it makes me feel even worse, but it needed to be said – as well as the rest of what’s coming…)
Jenny Lindstrom is the first main character we get to meet. At first glance, she’s just a pretty country girl. With just a bit prejudiced and assumption-happy personality on the side to spice her up. Many heroines have started with even less than that and got to rise higher. But… she didn’t. All through the book, no one, Not. Even. A. Single. Person, called her out on her bullshit – I’m way past caring for the swear words in her case, and trust me, I had even worse ones in mind! -, while only Maggie and ol’ man Carl (maybe even Paul a bit) did a too-polite job (unnecessary, if you ask me, someone HAS to give her a reality check and a lesson in manners SOMETIME in her vain life!) of telling her she was wrong on her views. From the very start, she was prejudiced against Sam simply because he was from the “big city”. On their first date, there was actually a part where she – openly to the reader through her thoughts – wished he would snap at the environment around him so that she would prove her theory of him being a snob. Hell, her prejudice even reaches the poor waitress! To my defense, I don’t find what Jenny described from Tess’s past acceptable, but you don’t see me sharpening the rock I’ll throw to her in an unjustified act of supposed superiority. She hated having the tongue of that guy from her college days in her mouth and actually got traumatized (seriously, on the 5th date?!), but she was perfectly fine with Sam’s on their first kiss. And of course, whenever Sam would try to defend himself or his lifestyle, or say something she didn’t agree with – or, heck, even use her own words about her father, but, oh, sorry, no one should call her *heart* Papa *heart old-fashioned but HER – she would get all stiff and snap at him like a ruffled terrier – you know, the one with the annoying, high-pitched bark that makes you wish you could just kick it to hell and back? Let’s not forget the fact she took her anger or emotional stress out on poor Sammie boy, and she expected him to take it like a pro!
Speaking of Sam and defending himself, yes, it did spoil the fun for me. Here we have a classic case of a flirty, teasing, humoristic male that gets out of his way to please and respect the woman he just fell in love with – I’ll ignore the fact it was too fast to be considered love, because, duh, romance and all that, it’s supposed to be this way. And the main heroine turns him into a shadow of himself! He always had to take her shit and not complain, his own stress and problems – or the job he had actually worked hard to get and keep – never mattered, and he was the one apologizing most of the time – and even when he didn’t, he would immediately forgive Jenny, thinking how wonderful it was of her to suck it up and apologize so easily. Ummm, I’m sorry, sir? Yes, you there, the adorable ginger-blonde with the amazing smile and the grin-worthy lines? If someone finds it so easy to say they’re sorry after doing all the next things one after the other:
– act like a snob because of your lifestyle and place of living,
– research your past through GOOGLE of all things and then treat you like scum without even wondering if, hey, it’s online social media, is any of this even TRUE?,
– and many other things I’d rather not list but surely insult you both as a male and as a human being, then… newsflash, pretty boy: she doesn’t know what sorry stands for anymore. She has used it so many times, and she knows she will always get away by using it, she doesn’t even care anymore if she throws it here and there to keep her bitchy act. That and crying (every few pages!)…
Can you imagine? A woman who is described by EVERYONE in the book as perfect in looks and heart, is nowhere NEAR that in reality, yet no one sees that and they actually keep coddling her and keeping her sheltered – resulting in her bubble getting even thicker and harder to burst!
As you can see, the main heroine brought a story that had great potential very low. She practically destroyed the whole thing for me. I was so happy to get my hands on the book, and I ended up rushing through the story to get it done – I can’t remember the last time I did that for any reason other than no time to spare and anxiety to finish a story before a deadline, so it doesn’t make me feel any good about it. Or my hateful rant.
The only reason I’m not giving this one cupcake – or that I didn’t leave it in the DNF state – was that I kept reminding myself that it would pass, that Tess’s story comes next – that and the fact the Lindstrom BROTHERS seem delicious both in appearance and personality and I can’t wait to read about them. Or Paul – who was another man unfairly drawn to Jenny and SHOULD get his HEA merely for putting up with her on a daily basis.
Once again, I want to make sure anyone who reads this doesn’t mistake it for a mere hateful rant. It was not intended before I started reading the book, and I really tried to like it, but when a character that you can’t help but read about – in other words, one of the main ones – keeps popping up on the page and never gets anywhere near character growth, there’s only so much I can do..
***I was given a review copy from a LibraryThing Member Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***