To Go: 97
1. Best Friends Forever — Jennifer Weiner
2. The Very Picture of You — Isabel Wolff
3. First Impressions — Nora Roberts
Escaping the traps of gold-digging women, wealthy businessman Vance Banning moves to rural Maryland. All he wants is peace, quiet, and to keep away from women. The last thing he needs is his sassy, sexy neighbour Shane Abbott. But he has no idea how determined Shane will be when it comes to giving a helping hand — or a loving heart.
I know what you’re thinking: aughghgh. And sadly, this is only the first of a two-story omnibus, so I’m not quite done yet. I should have made staying away from these books my New Years resolution, but I can’t afford to turn down a loaner. Anyway…
So I have this suspension of disbelief-related issue with a large amount of Nora Roberts books: my disbelief is certainly not suspended. This happens most when I happen upon a moment between family members or friends that is so beyond the boundaries of regular relationships that I just have to laugh (or cringe). For example, a grandmother who wants to know about her granddaughter’s sex life, or parents who think it’s totally acceptable to discuss their daughter’s flaws and practically sell her off to a strange man as if she’s a horse (spoilers: the latter is in the next half of this book). Maybe my family is too normal, so I can’t relate, but my granny would totally not want to know anything about my sex life, and my parents would never think to discuss me like I’m an animal with a man they don’t know. There are some things you just don’t do.
Alternately, there are some things you do share, as a friend or family member, that are often tragically neglected in Roberts’ books: common sense. If I recall correctly, it’s shortly after her first kiss with Vance that Shane (yes that is a girl’s name; for a moment I hoped Shane was a guy because that would be totally out of Roberts’ comfort zone and all the more interesting) decides she’s in love with him. Moreover, she’s going to marry him. Nevermind that the guy is extremely temperamental, rude, abrupt, angry with life, cynical, and potentially hates women. She’s going to marry him, and that’s all there is to it. When she told her friend Donna, I expected that she’d get a talking-to (or at least a suggestion of caution). Instead, Donna basically pats her hand and says ‘that’s nice, dear.’ (She does offer a half-hearted “be careful,” but it sounds a little false/forced.)
Call me pragmatic, call me what you will. But if my girlfriend told me that after one kiss and less than a month of knowing someone (who didn’t have very admirable personality traits), she planned to marry him, I’d tell her to slow down, crazy, slow down. There are so many virtues in actually getting to know a guy before you marry him. At the very least, I’d tell her to look before she leapt. But there’s none of that. Just ‘oh, you. You’re precious. Best of luck with Mr. Crazy.’ I feel like this could have been prevented if she’d had a Sassy Gay Friend, instead of an utterly useless girlfriend.
On another, unrelated note, the wrench that was thrown in Shane and Vance’s love just seemed a little…pointless. He isn’t honest about who he is, and lets her go on believing he’s broke when really he’s stupid rich (convenient), and when her jerk of a mother lets her know what’s what, Shane reacts by screaming and refusing to hear his side. Am I the only one here who would just say, “Okay, well, my mother’s clearly a jerk and unstable, so maybe I should calmly sit Vance down and ask him what’s up”? That just seems the reasonable thing to do, if you’re terribly in love with the guy and want to believe the best in him. I’ve never understood why heroines in most romances overreact about stupid little things; I get that it’s in the interest of plot, but sometimes a little common sense would be nice.
Finally, the lead-up to the first sex scene read like lead-up to a rape. I wish I was kidding. Vance hefts her over his shoulder, tells her he’s going to have sex with her, and takes her upstairs to his bedroom; all the while, she’s yelling — yelling, with no sense of laughter in her voice — for him to put her down and not touch her. I quote: “I’m not going with you” (136); “You put me down this minute. I won’t put up with this” (137). I’d love to know which of those sounded like consent to Vance. (Though, really, I don’t think he was looking for consent; his responses were “You’re going exactly where I take you” and “You’re going to put up with a hell of a lot more in a few minutes” respectively.)
Anyway, it was a flat, irritating disappointment. No point in reading it. And I’m not much looking forward to the next story, either.
(PS: Am I the only one who thinks Vance sounds like something you’d yell if you were in trouble? It reminds me of that time in Reba, when Barbara Jean started yelling “Brock!” like an alarm. Vance! Vaaaaaaaance!)
Next book: Blithe Images — Nora Roberts