Blue Skies, by Robyn Carr

>> Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TITLE: Blue Skies
AUTHOR: Robyn Carr

PAGES: 377

SETTING: Contemporary Las Vegas, mostly
TYPE: Straight romance

REASON FOR READING: I've been hearing good things about Carr (about her Virgin River series, mostly), and I wanted to give her a try. Blue Skies was the only one of her books that my library had.

Nikki Burgess has survived a terrible marriage and an even worse divorce. And she's just about given up hope of every finding love and happiness. But when her ex-husband suddenly dies, she gets custody of her kids again and a chance to start over and do it right.

Dixie McPherson, on the other hand, has had way too much love. She has eleven tennis bracelets, dozens of trinkets, piles of sexy lingerie and a tarnished reputation when all she ever wanted was true love, a partner and a family.

Carlisle Bartlett is loyal, generous, kindhearted and the funniest guy slinging drinks in the back of an airplane. But he has an ugly little secret. The only kind of love he's used to comes with bruises.

They are three people who could seriously use a break. A fresh start. A shot of success and a chance to shine. Maybe a little romance—the kind that sticks. And some adventure wouldn't hurt. So when they're presented with the challenge of joining a team starting a new airline in Las Vegas, they don't hesitate. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, these three friends are going in search of their own blue skies.
THE PLOT: The book follows three friends, coworkers in the airline industry, as they get a new start in Las Vegas, where a new airline is getting off the ground. Nikki is a pilot who's all but given up on being a woman. Her friend Dixie, a flight attendant, has been looking for love and marriage all her life, but all she's found is men who lie to her and quickly leave her. Her colleague, Carlisle, is in an abusive relationship with his partner. The opening of New Century Air, in Vegas, is an opportunity for them to start again.

MY THOUGHTS: In a nutshell? Interesting story, but the authorial voice was much too intrusive.

Mainly, I thought Carr was too in love with her subject matter. Her infatuation with everyone and everything related to the air travel industry brought her book into preach-fest territory. And although her subject matter is interesting, and I appreciate reading a story by an author who clearly knows her stuff, the level of unnecessary detail about EXACTLY what starting a new airline involves bogged the story down a lot. We don't really need to know the details of exactly which manuals they need to write and exactly how many meetings they need to have and exactly with whom. After a certain point, this kind of thing doesn't add to the flavour of the book, it just bores.

Also on the authorial voice front, I felt there was too much tell rather than show. Carr's got a way of including a lot of omniscient narration that kept taking me out of the story.

As for the romances, I thought I was getting three, from what I read in the back cover and from the initial set-up, but I really got two. Poor Carlisle did get his HEA ending, but he got really shortchanged in terms of the development of a romance. There was absolutely none, and I wish there had, because it could have been very interesting. Nikki's romance was pretty boring, as her love interest never really came alive. The only one I really liked was Dixie's. That was really sweet. She falls in love with this ordinary-looking, unexciting, shy, totally nice guy, who is completely in love with her, but can't believe someone so beautiful can be interested in him. Awwwww!

Even though her romance didn't much interest me, I really liked Nikki. I feared at the beginning she would be a mess of neuroses and self-esteem issues, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yeah, she's not that confident in her personal life, but it's not something exageratedly bad. And in the workplace? The woman kicks butt and takes no shit from anyone. Every time someone tried to screw with her and she just calmly and firmly set them straight, I practically cheered.

Though... I had some problems with the ethics of two things Nikki did. The first was this guy Rocky, who's a kind of running joke through the book (well, not really, he shows up only three times, but still). This guy keeps pretending to be someone impressive to pick up women, and the first time, he's sitting next to Nikki in a plane and tells her that he's there undercover as an air marshal. Well, she gets him arrested for it! Huh? Arrested? He's not seriously impersonating an air marshal, in the sense of... I don't know, strutting around the cockpit giving orders, or something. He's just being smarmy. And she thinks it's just right that he gets arrested? It wasn't very funny at all.

And then there was the thing with Bob Riddle, which might be a bit of a spoiler. Riddle is her boss at the new airline, who it soon becomes clear, is wholly incompetent. Nikki gets the goods on him near the end of the book, more than enough to get his ass fired, but rather than exposing him, she just engineers his hiring by another company. So the book ends with this guy making three times as much as Nikki and the poor people at his new airline bearing the damage. So wrong! And not least because one of the things I was looking forward towards the most in the whole book was seeing Riddle get his comeuppance, maybe by being publicly humiliated!

And speaking of Riddle, he didn't really work very well as the "villain" of the piece, which is what I suspect he was supposed to be. He was just so incredibly bumbling that there was never any sense of threat from him.



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