So, without further ado...
Hot Dish by Connie Brockway
Here She Is...
Years ago, Jenn Lind's family's dynasty crashed, forcing them to move out of their Raleigh penthouse and into a cabin in Fawn Creek, Minnesota. But Jenn saw a way out:She'd win the Buttercup pageant, grab the scholarship, and run far, far away. The plan almost worked too until some conniving townspeople cheated her out of her tiara. Still, she swore she'd make it out someday...
Twenty years later, she's on the cusp of real stardom. She's about to leave for New York to be crowned queen of daytime TV when Fawn Creek asks her to be grand marshal of the town's sesquicentennial. Her network accepts, delighted over the PR, especially since she'll be sharing the "honor" with international celebrity Steve Jaxx, a man she got tangled up with once long ago. Between the all too attractive Steve, the townspeople, and a hundred-pound butter sculpture, Jenn may never escape Fawn Creek. Or even worse, she might.
As far as this BCC goes, I don't know. Jenn didn't get "tangled up" with Steve Jaxx years ago. He sculpted her head in butter. She cried while he did it. Then she watched him get arrested. This does not make tangled up. Her parents did lose every penny of their considerable wealth, and they did have to move to Fawn Creek. For the most part, it is truthful.
This book has a Prologue that isn't really a prologue. And you know, I'm not that fond of prologues to begin with, so if a book is going to have a prologue it needs to be a good one. For instance, I love the two prologues in Going Postal by Terry Pratchett and I like the way Nora Roberts used the prologues in her In The Garden Trilogy. But this "prologue" is a scene from the end of the book and when I think prologue, I think before the story started. Not, read this and I'll get back to it in, oh, 400 pages. This "prologue" felt more like a scene the author loved and didn't want to kill, so she talked the editor into including it as a prologue. It lends nothing to the book but it did serve the purpose of annoying this reader.
Then after you read this "present day prologue", Chapter One takes place 21 years earlier. Then, after five chapters, we're back to present day. The first five chapters were filler. Bad filler. Everything that was put in those pages could have been used throughout the book in a much more creative, easier to read format.
And speaking easy to read, I was never sure what POV the author was using. Third Limited? Third Om? I just didn't know. I can't stand that. I was actually starting to think that I had a grasp on the whole POV thing, and then I read this book. I think it was an attempt at Limited, and turned into very loose limited. And if it was indeed Limited, there were far too many perspectives. There were no less than 6 characters with a POV and quite possibly there was 7. Hint to author - That is, at the most, 5 POV's too many, and at the least 4.
When you have that many POV's, the reader isn't going to bond with your H&H. And that was definitely true in this book. The female protagonist in this book was Jenn Lind. Or, Jenna, Jenny, Jennifer Hallesby. I got the feeling the author couldn't decide what variation she liked best, so she just used them all. Jenn wasn't especially well written. I didn't like her. Not one bit. I knew I was supposed to, and I even tried, but all I felt towards her was irritation. She couldn't let go of her past, she couldn't see her blessings. Jenn seemed to sit on her pity pot a lot, and I don't like TDTL characters. And Jenn was definitely TDTL.
Then you have Steve Jaxx. The sculptor that sweeps Jenn off her feet. Steve was so terribly written he annoyed me. I think what I was supposed to think of Steve, was that he was such a genius artist, that he could see the beauty in everything, even when we wouldn't. What I actually thought of Steve, was that he was a few chapters short of a full book. Heck, he was a few chapters shy of a novella. Absent minded and short sighted doesn't begin to describe the way Steve was portrayed.
There are also thieves in this book. Three local yahoo's that decide to hold the butter head hostage, and the man that was going to steal it but was beat to the punch. I'm not sure what it says about me as a reader, but the author actually did a fairly good job of capturing these guys. They weren't funny, but they were supposed to be. They did, however, have a believability.
When I bought this book, I did so because I saw the quote at the bottom that says, "A dazzling contemporary debut." I had just read an excellent debut author and had hopes I'd discover another. The thing is, I didn't see the mention that she was a NYT Bestseller. Silly me, it was on the COVER, but I saw debut, and grabbed! Apparently, Brockway is established in the historical genre, and you know, I don't read that many historicals, so I didn't recognize the name.
The problem with historical authors that switch to contemporary is that they so seldom make the switch well. Suzanne Enoch is a great exception to this rule (and I'll be posting a review by her soon) and I adore her contemporaries, but in general, whenever I read a contemp penned by a historical author, I end up greatly disliking it.
I'm not a stupid person. In fact, I like to think I'm fairly intelligent. Not the smartest kid in school, but definitely not the dumbest. But while reading this book, I had to stop several times to re-read a paragraph or sentence just to understand what was written. "...Not that she remembered Steve's kissing her-he was a really good kisser and well worth remembering-but this young stud who embodied everything she generally found appealing-success, good grooming, financial security, sophistication, efficiency-should hold no appeal for her whatsoever." There are far to many "-" in this sentence, and it slowed me up.
Then there were Brockway's choice of words. For instance, people capitulate a lot in this book. There's also this little doozy, "...all sorts of hitherto ignored chivalrous impulses rushing to the fore." And while I understand what this mean, I don't understand how this sort of phrase belongs in a contemporary novel.
I found this authors style very pretentious. There were words like, semisomnambulism, and I have no idea what that means, so don't ask. Then there were sentences like, "It was called chiaroscuro, she recalled, light and dark, and it made magic of the reflected light and shadows composing his face." Um, WHAT? "She moved away from Natalie, toward the window, her thoughts a tempest." I bought what sounded like a light fun contemporary romance. What I got was a headache.
As far as the romance between Steve and Jenn is concerned, it was not believable at all. The two characters have very little interaction between them and yet they still fall in love within the course of 3 days. And finally, I really don't like it when authors fake what they don't know. Towards the end of the book, Brockway describes Texas Hold 'Em and says the last 2 cards dealt are called "the river." No. The second to last card is the "turn" card, then the last card, and ONLY the last card, is called "the river."
I do not recommend this book. Save your money. If you must read it, wait until it hits your local library.