Hot Nights In Ballymuir
by Dorien Kelly, contemporary (2004)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-6459-1


Hot Nights In Ballymuir suffers from being a very pleasant yet not very memorable story. I don't have any particular problems with the familiar characters or the way Ms Kelly handles her story, but at the same time, I am not moved by the story. In fact, I can't really remember much of this story once I've finished the book.

Jenna Fahey is an American woman that has made the Irish smalltown Ballymuir her home. She runs a restaurant, Muir House, where she also works as the chef. Don't scoff at the American outsider, people: her restaurant is popular as well as critically acclaimed. Into her life walks Devlin Gilvane, a former local turned playboy millionaire Londoner who acts like a charming newcomer to win over the heart of Ballymuir. Actually, he's here to check out the scene in advance for his impending buyout of a good location to expand his resort chain. Jenna thinks that Dev is a good-looking man alright, albeit an infuriating one, but she also suspects that Dev is up to something. Does Dev really have feelings for her or is he just having designs on her restaurant, of which the lease is fast expiring?

Jenna and Dev are pleasant characters. Their romance consists of mild and banter-laden antagonistic scenes with heavy underlying sexual attraction. The author has some fun playing out the irony of an American woman loving Ballymuir for what it is more than the prodigal son who just sees dollar signs everywhere, but eventually the relationship between Dev and Jenna never move past the simmering point. They banter, they argue, they snog each other like horny toads, but the intensity of the emotions they are supposed to be feeling doesn't seem to be there. Maybe part of the problem here is because the conflicts between Jenna and Dev are very easily resolved to the point that these two never actually address pertinent issues about their relationship. Their love story is pleasant, like some holiday fling, but at the same time there isn't much underlying substance I can detect either.

The subplots of this book, which are just enough unlike the author's putting too many of them in her Pocket debut, don't come together too well. Again, this is probably because Ms Kelly introduces resolutions to these subplots a little too easily that they come off as trivial. Dev's mother is in town to rekindle an old love affair and Dev isn't happy about it. But next thing I know, everything goes well. Have a few crucial scenes been excised from the story during the fine-tuning process? Jenna's sister resents having to stay in Ballymuir but it takes her just as easily to love the place and settle down happily.

On one hand it's nice to read a contemporary romance set in a smalltown that doesn't overwhelm me too much with anti-city and anti-career sentiments. On the other hand, I wish that the book has succeeded in making me feel more for it other than a pleasant kind of indifference, the kind of indifference that I would give a cute little puppy chasing its tail round and round the place before leaving it be and moving on to other pressing matters at hand.

Rating: 78


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