Girls Night, by Stef Ann Holm

>> Friday, September 19, 2003

Girls Night (Pandora's Box), by Stef Ann Holm is a book I'd been really looking forward to since I read the review. Good straight romances are very hard to find this days...

All Jillene McDermott needs is a little breathing room, and the only place she can find it is the bathtub. Her coffee bar, Java the Hut, is on life support, and raising two daughters alone is a full-time job, so quiet moments in the tub are a rare treat.

Knowing their mom deserves some happiness, Jillene's daughters Claire and Faye, write her a personal ad. But their good intentions go wrong and Vince Tremonti, the town's most famous son, has to step in as Jillene's "boyfriend."

Vince is a crime writer who is back in Blue Heron Beach to rethink the grim reality of his career, and he can't afford to get involved with anyone, much less a young widow with a ready-made family.

But thrown together, the two can't deny the mutual attraction and they realize there is more between them than a summer fling. Suddenly, lattes are not the only thing steaming in Blue Heron Beach.
It was a definite disappointment: a C+.

My biggest problem with it was how conservative and preachy about it it was. I picked up on this "things were much better in the 50s" vibe early on, but I wasn't really sure until page 26, when the author just comes out from behind the characters and starts preaching. I was, to put it mildly, flabbergasted:

"Vince's generation was the result of a nation's disregard for the Ward and June Cleaver outlook. A generation that, instead, had thrust itself into psychedelic drugs and marches for equal rights, flag burning, brain burning. The liberated movement took the picket-fenced house off the map, and in its place came working mothers and day-care. Latchkey kids. Divorce. The disintegration of America. War on the streets. Gangs. The Oklahoma City bombing. Columbine."

Oooh-kay. Liberals are evil, I get that. If Americans had all stayed living as they did in the 50s everyone would be happy. And this sets the tone for the rest of the book. A woman successful in her career? Evil floozy! and so on.

And then, I simply couldn't really identify with Jillene. She was so "mom"! I'm ok with reading about people different from me, and I often like them anyway, but I just couldn't really like this particular heroine. I found her a bit of a ninny, actually. From the beginning, I just couldn't respect a woman who was so ready to leave all the worry about finances to her husband, that when he died she had no idea of what their financial situation was.

I liked Vince better, and I thought his problem was fascinating and very original. I wasn't crazy about the dynamics of their relationship, though. I never bought they were in love and I didn't like how Vince shut Jillene out from his problems. I suppose he needed to solve everything on his own, but it still left a bad taste in the mouth that he'd never consider sharing with the woman he loved. He just presented her with a solved problem.

The girls I thought were silly. Didn't like them much. I guess I don't have patience with kids like that. And that stupid personal add... not adorable, not amusing. Just plain irritating.

And, to top it all, the brand-dropping drove me crazy. Sunglasses weren't sunglasses, they were Serengetis, and so on. It was especially irritating because I've no knowledge of most of the brands, so I had to guess what the hell the author was talking about. A small detail, one I wouldn't even notice in a book I was otherwise liking, but it was just one more annoyance over many others.

I did like some things, yes. The secondary romance was sweet, and I liked how the book was wholy focused on the relationship, but this wasn't enough.

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