Cute, chick-lit comedy
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: July 5, 2019
Pages: 306 pages
Source: ARC from Author
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Twenty-eight-year-old Andie has taught high-school English for the past six years, following in the footsteps of her beloved father, who has taught high school history for 33 years. For the past 23 years since her parents divorced, Andie has seen little of her cold, distant mother, even though her mother lives on Long Island, and Andie and her father live in Brooklyn. Her father is a native of Brooklyn, has many, close, lifelong friends there, enjoys the enviable benefit of a rent-controlled apartment, and has always been the most important relationship in Andie’s life. But suddenly, with no warning, her father abandons everything that matters to him in New York—including Andie—to pull up stakes and move to a small town in North Carolina and become engaged to Renata, his former high-school sweetheart. Renata is a widow who has retired from nursing to run a goat farm.
Andie is convinced it is up to her to save her father from himself, because she believes he is making a terrible mistake on multiple counts: He has only been in a relationship with Renata for six months, and until very recently, when he went to North Carolina to visit her, all of that time together has been spent long-distance. It’s too soon to be talking about marriage. But even if they wait for a while to commit, and decide down the road that it’s a good idea to get married, Andie believes that, given that Renata is African-American and Dad is white, they would be better off living in open-minded New York City, rather than in the intolerant South. Also, New York is a good choice for Renata—much better than North Carolina is for Dad—because she is originally from Brooklyn, has a son who is a surgeon in Manhattan, and a second son who is a chemist, who could easily get a job in New York City as well. In addition, her father can barely change a light bulb, let alone effectively do all the hard labor and constant property repairs required on a run-down, smelly, mosquito-ridden goat farm. And last, but not least, Renata’s farm is a money pit which will devour Renata and Dad’s life savings, because its only source of income is selling a limited amount of goat cheese and a few dozen eggs from a small flock of chickens at a weekly farmer’s market.
For all these reasons, Andie feels perfectly justified in driving over 350 miles to land on Dad and Renata’s doorstep unannounced, to convince her father to reconsider relocating to North Carolina. But two main obstacles stand in the way of her plan: First, Dad is obviously blissed-out, down on the farm with Renata, and she is obviously as generous, understanding, and warm-hearted as Dad, and just as much in love as he is. Second, Andie is both intimidated by and intensely attracted to Renata’s adopted son, Seth, a gorgeous hunk of an ex-Marine in his early 30’s. He works as a paramedic, and he’s constantly at Renata’s house, because he’s building a cabin himself from the ground up on Renata’s farm. Seth has deep roots in the local community, is very attached to Renata and her sons, and would be much harder to transplant to New York. He also has an unfortunate habit of walking in on Andie’s frank cellphone conversations with Hugh, her long-time, gay best friend in New York, which has caused him to view her with justifiable suspicion, as a homewrecker out to destroy the happiness of his beloved adopted mother.
I would describe this book as more chick-lit comedy than romantic comedy, not as a judgment as to which is better or worse, but more as a distinction that makes a difference in these two subgenres of comedic, women’s fiction. Romance spotlights the courtship between two romantic partners, with the arc of the story being their mutual evolution from distrust to trust. In contrast, chick lit primarily portrays the heroine’s disastrous dating life, with the arc of the story being the heroine’s gradually realizing that she has to love and respect herself first and foremost before she can ever hope to have any healthy relationships in her life. The arc of distrust to trust in this situation involves the heroine learning to trust herself by developing greater personal responsibility and better judgment. In chick lit, therefore, if there is an HEA romance, it exists as a secondary plot, not the main hurrah. It serves as a kind of reward for a job well done of reaching greater maturity, which is very much the case in this book. Finally, this story is written in first-person point of view (POV), present tense, which is a perspective that is quite common in chick lit and young-adult fiction, and very rare in the romance genre, which is virtually always written in close-third-person POV, past tense. First person POV has a tendency to cause the female protagonist to seem self-centered and a bit narcissistic, and it also detaches readers from her romantic interest, by leaving his goals and motivations a big mystery. Adult romance fiction almost always is written from dual POV of the heroine and the romantic hero, which connects the reader almost as closely with the hero as the heroine.
I personally am not generally a fan of chick lit, because of the narcissism issue, and I’m also not, in general, a fan of stories about a big city gal who resents getting stuck in the country. However, having said all that, this author writes such vivid characters, and has such a clear, entertaining voice, that I found myself strongly drawn into this story. I am a very jaded reader, and these days I frequently skim more of a given novel than I actually read word for word, but I enjoyed this book so much that I didn’t skim it at all.
I found Andie an intriguing, vibrant heroine, and I enjoyed that she has a strong growth arc toward greater empathy and compassion for both herself and others. It makes her a very sympathetic character. I liked Seth very much, as well. He is not just a cookie-cutter, classic, sexy, former-military, alpha, romance hero. Both his past history and present choices make him unique and compelling. All the subcharacters in this book are colorfully and sympathetically drawn as well, and the farm setting is also clearly and believably presented.
The relationship between Andie and Seth is a “slow burn” romance, which I personally have no problem with. There is exciting sexual chemistry between the two of them from the start, but sex itself is presented as a culmination of the growth of respect and affection between them, rather than an end in itself, and it does not occur until very near the end of the book. For me, that makes the sex much more sexy than pages stuffed full of meaningless bump-and-grind.
All in all, this is a fun read, and I look forward to the next book in this series.
I rate this book as follows:
Romantic Hero: 5
Chick Lit Plot: 4
Romance Plot: 5
Overall: 4.5 rounded to 5 stars