Skeptic scale: ♥♥♥♥
A fun, interesting take on girls and our obsession with Happily Ever After. Amusing and hot, Lori Wilde deals with some very sensitive issues with wit and delicacy that I found really charming.
He: Hottie, Iraq veteran, current Sheriff of Valentine, Texas. The town of Valentine has built its reputation as the home of schmoopy-pie love and romance by aggressively embracing the romantic comedy kitch - heart-shaped lake, heart-shaped parking meters, soon a romance-themed amusement park - the works.
She: A self-diagnosed Romanceaholic - twice ditched at the alter, she decides to make some serious changes in her life so that she stops trying to make everything into a saccharine-sweet romantic comedy and start making some better decisions - especially when it comes to men.
Conflict: They have immediate chemistry but the timing's off - he's still smarting from his wife walking out on him and some lingering wounds from his experiences during September 11th and in Iraq and she needs to get her head out of the clouds and face the fact that life is not a Hallmark card. Obviously, there is an HEA for our H&h, but its cool that they both go through their respective "processes" to get there.
The good stuff:
1) There was plenty of silly sitcom-y stuff, but LW elevates it from the cliched by reminding us again and again that the H&h are characters with things they need to address in their own lives that prevents them from jumping right into the romantic fun and games. E.g. there is a scene where H&h have to spend the night in the same bedroom - it would have been very easy for us to be treated to one of those typical High Sexual Tension scenes where the H goes to bed practically unclothed because hey, he just doesn't like to be constricted by clothing while he slumbers while she pretends to ignore how "her body unwittingly responds" to his buff awesomeness. The way LW tells it, yes there is sexual tension, but there is a fun little twist that makes the scene different that the other hundred similar ones I have read.
2) I liked the premise - girls, STOP treating our lives like we are the love children of Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant encased in a snow globe of Perfect Love and Happiness. In the story, she has some good insights about how she has treated her life and relationships with men like she was following a script in a romantic comedy - from the meet-cute to the perfect wedding - and she realizes this behavior has led her to make some stupid moves with guys. This is a great lesson for everyone and I'm impressed by LW for weaving it in so nicely in a romance novel. That said, there were some issues I had with the execution, but more on that below.
3) The H was super. He was solid, kind, mature, sensible, hot and just an all-round decent dude. Also, I believe I may have mentioned my new found love of this small-town-sheriff trope. Love It.
4) The writing, the pacing were all very good and I really enjoyed reading the book.
The "meh" stuff:
1) I thought there was one too many side plots. We follow 3 other romantic pairings in addition to the main one - each that ends in its own HEA. Too much. I mean, LW goes through all this trouble to set up the premise that you need to face reality and NOT get sucked into a candy-colored romantic whirlpool but in the end, that's exactly where everyone finds themselves happily spinning towards. So EVERYONE gets an HEA? Really? It was super cheesy and kind of lessens the magic of a romantic pairing that REALLY works. I mean, the H&h ain't THAT special if basically every schmo gets a perfect HEA with his perfect schmee.
2) I question whether the h really learns anything by the end of her whole self-reflection thing. She wants to learn to be independent and self-contained and not make the entire purpose of her life be the man in her life. So she gets a job and a hobby she finds fulfilling - both of which involve her talking about how Romanceaholics should wean themselves off of their drug. It frustrated me a little that she falls in love with H before she really self-actualizes - finds a purpose beyond getting married and having an HEA (the one she secretly still wants despite her big talk about rejecting romance). I realize she gains some insight (romance is not equal to love) but who is she really? At the end of it all, she still just seems like an almost-married instead of a fulfilled person who is really delighted with herself and loves the life she's in.
Anyway, maybe that's the way some personalities just work. Maybe some people really can't be happy unless they're with someone else. That's what Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks tell me anyway. Meh. I don't believe it. But its loads of fun to read about so what the heck!