by Christie Ridgway, contemporary (2008)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22485-4
Christie Ridgway is definitely an uneven author in my book because this is not the first time she follows a book that I couldn't stand with a book that I find often too cute for words. Yes, I panned the sauce out of How To Knit A Wild Bikini, but I find myself unexpectedly charmed by Unravel Me. Since I hadn't won a billion dollars in the lottery or married Hugh Jackman in the time between that book and this one, it's not as if I'm in a different state of mind when I am reading this book. No, it's not me, it's the author. She goes up and down like a yo-yo, and sometimes I wish she's a little less unpredictable.
The story doesn't make me adore it from the get go, though. When I learned that Juliet Weston had decided that she was in love with a man thirty years her senior at the age of thirteen, I made the sign of the cross and wondered whether it was too late to run back to the bookstore and tell the manager that the devil made me buy this book so I'd like my money back. Anyway, Juliet's Colonel Sanders soon croaked, but not before their wedding cost the old coot his political career and their nuptial to become some kind of punchline. By the time the old man died, Juliet's reputation was dragged through the mud so thoroughly that it is a good thing that she enjoys a quiet life because her retreat to her Malibu beach house is pretty much her only way of finding some semblance of peace in her life.
While being dogged by a resentful stepdaughter and pesky members of the paparazzi, Juliet finds herself attracted to the most unlikely person: Noah Smith, her late husband's loyal assistant who is more than happy to become her pool boy, if you know what I mean. Oh dear, will any good come out of this?
Of course. At first I'm put off by the way the story sets Juliet up to be this delicate fragile lily who can't be exposed to the harsh and cruel world or she will just die. Her husband even told Noah to take care of her before he died, as if a woman in her early thirties like Juliet is incapable of standing on her two feet. While Juliet has the boring wet blanket "good girl" personality typical of heroines in this genre, however, she turns out to be far less of a fragile flower than I feared. She has her moments of wit and she can actually hold her own against the hero pretty well without coming off like a child needing to be protected by the brave strong men in this world. Like Juliet, Noah comes off like a stereotype, with his being that of a protective ex-soldier hero, but he is a gentleman underneath his gruff exterior. If Juliet wants a hot daddy type to protect her, he's more than capable of doing the job despite being three years younger than her.
A nice bonus here is the stepdaughter turning out to be a pretty well-drawn character. I still think she's quite a brat, but I can see why she would resent Juliet and she gets to maintain her dignity and even finding her own romance here.
The biggest problem with Unravel Me is its predictability - the characters are well-drawn and likable, but they are also very recognizable stereotypes and their story hold little suspense for any reader who is familiar with the genre. Still, this is a sweet and cozy kind of comfort read with a tender romance and some comedy thrown into the mix. And since Christie Ridgway is an unpredictable author, I can only hope that the next book in this Malibu & Ewe series is more like this one rather than the book that came before this one.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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