Monthly Archives: February 2014

Book Review: The Opposite of Maybe

I received a free advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Opposite of Maybe, by Maddie Dawson, will hit the shelves in early April.  I read this romantic women’s fiction novel a few weeks ago, but needed time to consider how I would rate and review this story.

By way of plot summary, this is the blurb posted on Amazon:41rPlyLT4BL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Jonathan and Rosie have been together so long they finish each other’s sentences—so when he (finally) proposes and asks her to move across the country with him, everyone is happily surprised.


But when things suddenly unravel, Rosie sends Jonathan packing and moves back home with Soapie, the irascible, opinionated grandmother who raised her. Now she has to figure out how to fire Soapie’s very unsuitable caregiver, a gardener named Tony who lets her drink martinis, smoke, and cheat at Scrabble.   

It’s meant to be a temporary break, of course—until Rosie realizes she’s accidentally pregnant at 44, completely unequipped for motherhood, and worse, may be falling in love with Tony, whose life is even more muddled than hers. When Soapie reveals a long-hidden secret, Rosie wonders if she has to let go of her fears, and trust that the big-hearted, messy life that awaits her just may be the one she was meant to live.

I stayed up very late to finish this book in one sitting.  Yes, the writing voice is that strong, and certain elements of the story worked very well for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between Soapie and Rosie.  As protagonists go, I could respect a lot about Rosie at the outset: a mid-forties woman struggling to make sense of the choices she’s made, and making the best of a situation that is something less than ideal.

Initially, I couldn’t wait for her to get distance from her longtime lover, Jonathan.  He was peculiar and totally self-centered.  And, in contrast to Tony, a loveable, down to earth man, Jonathan certainly wouldn’t be any sane woman’s final choice.

However, I began having serious problems with the way Rosie handled Jonathan and Tony as the story progressed.  By the second half of the book, I had lost a lot of respect for Rosie.  Despite Jonathan’s inability to give her the love and support she needed, he was trying, to the best of his abilities, to make the relationship work, to be a father despite never wanting to be one, and to put their relationship back together.

Meanwhile, Rosie was flirting with and falling for Tony (totally leading him on) while still preparing to move to California to be with Jonathan and raise their child.  She wasn’t being honest with herself or either man.  Honestly, by the end of the book, I felt she should have been ended up alone because of her weak way of dealing with men and life.  Had she been twenty-two and pregnant, I could have forgiven her choices more.  But forty-four?  No.  Her thoughts and fears were much too immature and cowardly for a forty-four year old woman.  Yes, I know she had a sad childhood (tragic loss of her mother, raised by a difficult grandparent) and it left her with low self-esteem.  But those problems didn’t give her a free pass (in my opinion).

I think the author was hoping to make Rosie seem heroic, like a martyr who was willing to go back to the bio-dad for the sake of the child.  But all I saw was a completely insecure, self-absorbed woman who couldn’t make a decision to save her life.  Whether dealing with the big reveal of the truth about her mom, her dilemma with Jonathan, getting over the shock and fear of pregnancy and learning to embrace it, and coming to terms with her feelings for Tony, her attitude often seemed that of an unappealing, helpless victim.

Similarly, sometimes Tony came across as a bit of a doormat (when it came to his ex-wife and their child).  That detracted from him a bit, but he was a great guy and interesting character otherwise.

So, my problem with rating this book is that while I strongly disliked aspects of Rosie and her story, I loved the writing, tension, pacing and secondary characters.

If forced to grade this book, I’d have to give it a B/B+ because the author clearly has talent and, due to the subjectivity of any review, I suspect many other people might not be as turned off by Rosie as I was.  In any case, I would definitely read another book by this author.

xo-jamie

Romantic Realities

Valentine’s Day has come and gone.  Whether you love or hate the holiday, it certainly inspires equal amounts of excitement and dread across the country.  Personally, I love the recent SNL spoof about drugstore gifts for your sweetie, but that’s another post.

This year the big romantic pressure-cooker got me to thinking about romantic reality versus romantic idealism.  The holiday certainly panders to the idealist in us all—the dreamer who wants his or her life to mirror a silver-screen love story at least some of the time.   But oddly, a lot of big gestures can backfire in unforeseen ways.Romantic-Honeymoon

Take the photo I’ve posted here.  Looks romantic, right?  Can’t you just hear soft music and crickets, taste the wine and cheese, imagine the tingles of the awesome sex that is sure to follow such a lovely evening?

But hold on…because in reality it might not be so great.  Ever been outside at a lake in the evening?  You know what you’ll find?  Mosquitoes.  Lots and lots of mosquitoes.  Suddenly that romantic visage doesn’t look as appealing once you realize you’d be swatting at bugs and smelling like Deep Woods OFF all night.  Maybe pizza night with the DVR isn’t so bad?

Does this mean I’m down on romance?  Hardly!  But I do think hearing about other people’s grand plans can be deceiving and, if not kept in perspective, can rob your own relationship of its brand of romance.  So, if your sweetie didn’t knock your socks off with a great gift or unique plan for the weekend, don’t despair.  Stay focused on the little shared moments of affection and attention.  That’s reality, and that’s the kind of love story that will endure.

xo-Jamie

Beloved Tropes: A Valentine’s Day Giveaway!

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.  THE WINNER IS BONNIE FAHY!  Thanks to all who played.

 

It’s hard to believe this blog will celebrate its first birthday on Friday.  I can’t throw a party, so I’m hosting a contest giveaway instead.  Yep, another reason to love Valentine’s Day!

To be eligible to win, all you need to do is leave a comment to this post naming your favorite romance trope (and, if you can, your favorite book based on that trope).  The contest will close at noon on Valentine’s Day.  If you win, you can choose between a $30 Amazon or Kindle gift card, or a box of high-quality chocolates.  Romance+sections+of+RSA

For those who aren’t familiar with romantic fiction tropes, a basic definition is “a common or overused theme or device.”  Here are several popular examples:

Boss – secretary/underling
Plain Jane makeover/ugly duckling
Amnesia
Best friend/little sister
Love triangle
Marriage of convenience
Secret baby
Loveable rogue
Star-crossed lovers
Second chance/reunited lovers
Unrequited love

My personal favorites include unrequited love, best friend’s little sister, and the loveable rogue.   When I think about that, it probably has something to do with the fact those stories closely align with my personal romantic history.  Friends can attest to the dozens of cases of unrequited love littering my middle and high school years.  Accordingly, I love a story in which the guy finally appreciates the love right in front of him.  The sibling/love thing?  Well, I married one of my brother’s best friends (although I’m older, not younger).  Finally, as with most women, I’ve known a charming bad boy I couldn’t tame, so I love to vicariously tame “him” in a book!

Unfortunately, I am not a reader who can enjoy a trope I find unseemly in real life.  For example, the secret baby trope never works for me.  I spend the entire book being irritated at the woman who kept the baby a secret from the father.  I can never believe the hero would fall in love and forgive her for something so heinous.  Similarly, amnesia is hard to pull off in a credible way.  It can be done, but it seems forced and unnatural.  And finally, a significant love triangle is difficult to swallow.  Having strong feelings for two different guys (or girls) at once is not something I can relate to, so it is hard for an author to sell me that story.  I usually end up mad at the person who can’t seem to make up his or her mind (yeah, that’s you, Bella Swan) and I lose respect for the two people who are waiting around to be “chosen.”

Now that I’ve shared my opinions, tell me yours.  What is your favorite romantic trope (and can you suggest a book based on it)?

I’ll announce the contest winner on the blog and on my Facebook page on Valentine’s Day after noon EST.

XO-Jamie

 

Facing Defeat

Whether or not you were cheering for Denver or Seattle, at some point during last night’s Super Bowl game, you probably became uncomfortable watching the Seahawks trounce the Broncos.  14009598_s

You don’t have to play football to suffer a loss – even a humbling loss – that makes you capable of having empathy for others facing defeat.  Divorce or messy break-ups, lay-offs, editorial rejection (yeah, that stings): all of these experiences teach us lessons about life and ourselves.  And while none of us enjoys a crisis, each one provides an opportunity for growth and learning, and a chance to test our character.

Am I as strong, resilient, and filled with integrity as I think I am?  If not, might I become the person I want to be rather than the person I am?  And most importantly, will I keep trying despite the loss?

Since an early age, I’ve been a sort of mediator in my family and with friends.  For whatever reason, I have an uncanny ability to detach emotionally, analyze situations, and offer encouragement and solutions to help others get back on track.  But it is harder to do that for myself, and sometimes, when nothing seems to be going smoothly, I feel a strong urge to curl up under the covers and sleep until it blows over.

Then I see someone like Peyton Manning fail in a spectacularly public way and, despite the cameras, the disappointment, and the feeling of letting down his team, he maintains his poise while admitting to the “bitter pill” he has to swallow.  It can’t be easy to do that with the paparazzi in your face.  If he can do that, surely I can pick myself up, brush myself off, and “try, try again.”

And so, on this snowy Monday morning in February, I’m parking my butt in my chair and writing with the hope that, some day, I will enjoy the fruits of my labor, and all the bumps along the way will have only made me better and stronger.

What strategies do you use to handle a blow and keep going?

XO-Jamie

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_14009598_businessman-torn-between-being-positive-or-negative.html’>alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo</a>