Hot Dish, by Connie Brockway

>> Thursday, May 31, 2012

TITLE: Hot Dish
AUTHOR: Connie Brockway

PAGES: 432

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance / Women's fiction
SERIES: Not that I know of

Here she is...

Years ago, Jenn Lind’s family’s dynasty crashed, forcing them to move out of their Atlanta penthouse and into a cabin in Fawn Creek, Minnesota. But Jenn saw a way out—she’d win the Buttercup Pageant, grab the scholarship, and run far, far away. The plan almost worked too, until some conniving townspeople cheated her out of her tiara. Still, she swore she’d make it out someday…

Miss Minnesota?

Twenty years later, she’s on the cusp of real stardom. She’s about to leave for New York to be crowned queen of daytime TV when Fawn Creek asks her to be grand marshal of the town’s sesquicentennial. Her network accepts, delighted over the potential PR, especially since she’ll be sharing the “honor” with international celebrity Steve Jaax, a man she got tangled up with once long ago. Between the all too attractive Steve, the townspeople, and a hundred pound butter sculpture, Jenn may never escape Fawn Creek. Or even worse, she might.
Jenn Lind is on the verge of making it big as the new lifestyle star of a large network. She is completely uninterested in leading an anniversary parade in Fawn Creek, Minnessota, the small town where she and her parents moved to when their business collapsed. The teenaged Jenn always felt like an outsider there, and the town didn't let her forget it. But the network is owned by a particularly unpleasant and sanctimonious prick, and the executives decide the Fawn Creek celebrations go well the wholesome image the prick likes his stars to cultivate.

Also in Fawn Creek in the middle of winter, and supposed to lead the parade with Jenn, is famous sculptor Steve Jaax. Steve and Jenn met way back when, right after she had just been unfairly deprived of the Buttercup Queen title (and the chance to escape town via a scholarship). Steve, down on his luck after a nasty divorce, had accepted to carve the finalists' heads in butter (yes, seriously). To cut a long story short, it appears that Jenn's parents have kept the butter head (which everyone had thought had been melted), and Steve is particularly interested in seeing it again. He justifies this by saying it was a seminal work in his career (which it actually was), but mainly, it's because he hid something in it that he desperately wants.

The first thing I should say is that I don't tend to like wacky. I got a lot of it here. Part of the story is about Jenn and Steve meeting again and slowly connecting, which was nice and not wacky at all, but a lot of time (and I do mean a LOT) was taken up by wackiness around the dratted butter head. Several parties are after it, for different reasons, and there are farcical chases, inept wannabe criminals, crazy ransom demands and ugly blackmail. It bored me when it was done for comedy, and I really disliked the point when it got serious and Jenn was actually threatened and blackmailed over some innocent thing in her past that could get her fired by the sanctimonious prick.

And that brings me to the fact that I lost a lot of respect for Jenn for even considering working for this guy. She's got a gay best friend, and yet she would work for a human being so vile that he would consider being gay grounds for firing someone?

Anyway, because of all the butter head stuff, it took me a while to get into the book. The full first half, since most of the attention is on the butter head and the iniquities of the people of Fawn Creek, I found it hard to warm to it. I was coasting, not really getting it. But then it suddenly all just got better, when Steve and Jenn started to click, and I was really into the romance, which felt fresh and original. Unfortunately, I felt that element of the plot got shortchanged by all the craziness going on around it. It really needed much, much more development.

I also didn't much like that in the end, the message seemed to be that Jenn just has a prejudice against her town, and is not being fair. I felt I was being told that because of her negative experience as a teen (which, apparently, was mostly her own fault for not wanting to be there and holding herself separate), she just assumes the worst about everyone in the town, and can't really see the good things about it. Well, unfortunately, in my opinion, the town was mainly populated by judgmental idiots, and they did treat her abominably when she was young. Even during the book, they don't treat her well at all. There are all those horrible old ladies harassing her, and they all seem to take pleasure in taking her down. Ugh, I wanted her to run far, far away, not come to accept that this was a good place.



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