Sunday, October 23, 2016

Some Like It Perfect (Megan Bryce)

Some Like It Perfect
(A Temporary Engagement series, Book 3)
Megan Bryce
Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, Romance
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: In her mid-thirties, Delia still embodies the stereotypical college dropout, perpetually broke and more interested in her painting than in savings or making long-term plans... but, even though her friend Justine lets her crash on her couch for nothing, the romance of suffering for one's art eventually wears thin, even for a girl raised on a hippie commune. So, when Justine brings her an offer to paint a high-powered CEO's office ceiling, Delia swallows her pride and steps up to the job, even if it means climbing a hated scaffold and working around the arrogant embodiment of every capitalist ideal she's spent her whole life rejecting. But the moment she first lays eyes on Jack Cabot, sparks fly.
Jack didn't even want his office redecorated, but when his mother insists, he can't bring himself to turn her down. She's had more than her share of tragedy, after all, having buried two husbands and turned into a virtual recluse out of grief. Chaotic Delia brings everything into his office that he's spent his forty years denying: spontaneity, a rejection of material wealth as the measure of a life, and a refusal to submit to authority. So why can't he stop thinking about her? And why, after seeing what love cost his mother, is he now wondering what he's been missing by refusing to let love into his life?

REVIEW: Romances can make nice palate-cleansers between heavier works. They're usually fairly quick reads (as this one was - I read it in half a day, breaks included), with no great surprises so far as the general thrust of the plot goes. Here, however, I found some sour notes in the usual, familiar harmony, enough to disrupt my overall enjoyment. Delia and Jack aren't particularly deep as characters go, spending more time denying their star-crossed attraction than is strictly necessary... until Delia, the ultimate hippie-raised girl who proudly rejects society's standards and authority figures, lets one shrewish comment almost completely destroy her. (No spoilers, but the threat made zero sense, as there'd been no indication of anything resembling truth behind it... nor did it make sense that Delia latched onto it so readily and stupidly.) For large parts of the story, Jack and Delia are shunted to the side by other characters. Jack's teenaged half-sister, Augustus, sticks her growing pains squarely in the middle of the romance - and is inexplicably welcomed into their oddly cozy group, her anticlimactic issues mostly serving to distract the would-be-lovebirds from each other. Delia's roomie Justine is going through a midlife crisis with regards to her planned dream of family life and her lukewarm feelings toward her long-term boyfriend Paul, who doesn't seem interested in even spending weekends together, let alone marriage and fatherhood. Justine decides to take matters into her own hands by skipping her birth control - and here is where the book really falls flat and hard on its face. Justine and Paul's storyline falls back on every sexist stereotype in the book: all women want to be mothers and will become pregnant by any means necessary, while all men are grunting cavemen who only ever settle down because "their" woman tells them to, and because they're allowed to get out of really messy parts of parenthood because they're guys. Oh, and "oopsing" a man into marriage works, because he'll just get plastered and decide, yeah, he really does want to be a father enough to forgive the betrayal even though he'd been having second thoughts about the relationship beforehand. Yes, this was indeed written in the 21st century. I'm aware that this is a "thing" in some subgenres of romance, that some people find this relationship idea attractive, but I'm not one of them. The optimist in me wants to believe we've come farther than that, that maybe communication ought to be attempted before sabotaged contraception, while the pessimist just thanks her lucky stars she's never been that desperate to fulfill a picket-fence dream, if that's what it takes to get it. A manufactured crisis or two occurs between the leads and the secondary characters, and finally the story ends without me ever really caring about any of them. All around, it's not a terrible story, but mostly bland, with too much competition from side characters that muddle the tale - not to mention some very irritating and backwards messages on love.

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