by Kathy Love, contemporary (2004)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7612-6
Kathy Love's debut romance novel can be a little too precious at times. Drawing perhaps from her own name and how it is quaintly appropos for a (hopefully) long and creatively-financially lucrative career in romance writing, she has her heroines' family name to be Stepp so that she can call them the "Ugly Stepp Sisters". The villainess of this story is called Summer-Anne, and maybe it's just me having overdosed on all those teen dramas on TV (The OC, Everwood - yucks, yucks, yucks), but why is it that all the Not Nice Hos are always called Summer?
Getting What You Want isn't above dipping into overused and obvious plot devices, but it's nonetheless a pretty promising debut. There's a very nice romance under the clutter of conventionality here, as the brainy Stepp sister Abigail, the nerd now turned scientist, returns to Millbrook, Maine after escaping it fifteen years ago. She's here to fill in a cozy position in a lab for a few months. She isn't looking forward to coming home, but the former bad-boy done good, Chase Jordan, whom she had a crush on years ago, provide a cozy incentive to stay.
Abby is what I would expect from an unoriginal "scientist" character in a romance novel: she is shy, awkward around Chase, and she wants a stable and predictable life. Seriously, someone should send a memo to these authors - while the work requires a clear and analytical mind, science itself is never and will never be predictable and logical. Likewise, Chase has an overused name and there is little that is original about his bad-boy done good character. But what makes them stand out from other generic cookie-cutter characters is how Ms Love allows these characters to explore and come to terms with their past and with each other later in the story. Abby realizes that there is no use dwelling in the past while Chase comes to terms with the past and his abilities, or more specifically, the lack of a particular ability in this story. There is depths in this relationship because Chase and Abby experience emotional growth and the maturity in their relationship gives the story the solid credibilty it needs.
On the other hand, the ex-girlfriend Summer-Anne is a caricaturish relationship wrecker, the people of Mlllbrook are cardboard stereotypes, and the use of sequel baits in this story are far from imaginative or subtle.
Perhaps when Kathy Love sheds the overwhelming genericity plaguing her story, she'd come out with a knock-out book. Getting What You Want is a well-written book with a treatment of the love story that suggests that this author is capable of so much better things to come. This book may not get Kathy Love instant recognition, lots of dough, and superstardom, but if she keeps getting better, good things may come eventually. Let's just wait and see how things will go.
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