by Deborah Fletcher Mello, contemporary (2010)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86175-0
Tierra Brady has just been dumped by her fiancé Damien Porter. This happens just when Tierra is well into the wedding preparation. She is hoping that they will become husband and wife when Damien comes back from his stint in Afghanistan, but now it looks like Tierra will be singing Donna Summer's MacArthur Park solo on the karaoke machine. To add insult to the injury, Damien breaks up with her via letter delivered by Damien's colleague Sgt Travis Stallion. Fortunately for her, she and Travis get along very well indeed, if you know what I mean. But is this love or just a rebound affair that may get her burned again?
It is really too bad that Deborah Fletcher Mello's Promises To A Stallion kicks off with a premise that is too contrived for its own good. The author isn't even a little subtle about Damien being a jackass, so in Chapter One alone, I have Tierra waxing in delight over her upcoming wedding to Damien, her perfect man... even if she knows that there are very few things that they agree on, that he shows no interest in the wedding preparations, that he has a history of seeing other women, and that practically none of her friends and family members believe that he is the right man for her. I know sometimes a woman wants to get married so much that she deliberately turns a blind eye on the man's many faults, but Damien is so obviously Mr Wrong that Tierra ends up being the last to know when the whole thing falls apart. It's hard to feel sorry for her when she's such a cliché of a character.
It is a good thing that the story improves tremendously as it progresses, especially after the middle point. The first half is a bumpy read as Tierra acts like an irrational twit toward everyone around her. I don't really blame her as she's just been ditched and the wedding gown is non-refundable, but still, as I've said, it's hard to feel sorry for her. If the author had been more subtle about Damien's flaws, if she had shown me that he had some endearing virtues that blind Tierra to his more unpleasant side, I might feel more for Tierra's plight. As it is, Tierra's engagement to Damien feels like an ersatz plot device inserted solely to kick off this story. Tierra will eventually show a more self aware side later in the story that makes her engagement to Damien feel even more contrived.
But Tierra and Travis eventually settle down into an easy-going and enjoyable pace in their relationship as they banter and playfully argue with each other while oozing plenty of chemistry. Tierra thinks about the right things when it comes to whether her feelings for Travis are due to rebound or they are the real deal. Therefore, her romance with Travis feels solid and real - this time around, she knows what she is getting into. Travis is a bit of a stock character - dependable, rich, nice to look at, good to sleep with, et cetera - but I guess these superlative qualities make him a nice trophy for Tierra after all the drama with Damien.
The plot of Promises To A Stallion feels artificial and contrived, but the emotions feel real, real enough to salvage the story and turn it into a pleasant comfort read.
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