by Janis Reams Hudson, contemporary (2004)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6924-3
Janis Reams Hudson took a long time to follow up on her enjoyable 2001 book Long Way Home. All The Rooms Of My Heart unfortunately fumbles because the hero and the heroine are very difficult to like as their motivations are not developed enough for them to be sympathetic. This book is a standard and very familiar "city girl goes back to small hometown after the death of granny/mommy to find love with sheriff/carpenter/reclusive artist and live happily ever". The only thing that this story doesn't have, thankfully, is a traumatized kid.
But it's still a fill-in-the-blanks affair otherwise. The city girl is Whitney Sheridon, a New York City anchorwoman. In case I miss the fact that she is Unhappy and In Need Of Some Good Old Honky-Tonk Rogering, the author takes care to let me know that Whitney is stressed, has no social life, takes antacids, and more. The dead relative is Aunt Claudia. The quaint little building the aunt leaves behind is this time Claudia's Attic. She leaves behind a house for Whitney, and of course, this house is being renovated by our smalltown hero, Adam Burkett. Naturally, there are also many letters all over the house for Whitney to read and learn Important Lessons Of Life from Claudia. I don't think I will be spoiling the story if I say that in the end the heroine ditches life in New York to live happily ever after in Washita, Texas.
There is nothing new here, just a textbook case of Smalltown Contemporary Romance formula. However, I find it hard to care for the characters enough to overlook the dreary sameness of this book. Adam is often judgmental, as if him knowing Aunt Claudia gives him the right to accuse Whitney of all sorts of things even when he has no idea what really went on between Claudia and Whitney. At the same time, he lusts after her. Adam is quite the hypocrite, I must say. Adam is not the only one confused about Claudia's relationship with Whitney. I am still not too sure why Whitney is so bristle and cold all the time. She's an emotional wreck - cold and rude to people but all weepy and teary-eyed when she's alone. There has to be some really traumatic event in her past to make her this much of an emotional trainwreck, I suppose, but I won't be getting the whole picture from within the pages of this book.
Then again, there is a Big Secret later in the story that Whitney learns of from Claudia's letters and journals, and Whitney's irrational overreaction to that Big Secret suggests that she's probably just an irritating drama queen.
I feel emotionally disconnected from the story while I am reading it. The underwritten characters are unlikeable and cold and the romance story feels like it's merely going through the motions in adhering to the formula. There is nothing that stands out as memorable in this story, so I guess there are indeed plenty of rooms here, figuratively speaking - plenty of empty rooms.
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