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Heidi Hart

By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general. 

Ridiculously Contrived Premise Sours Stacey's Latest Novella

Alone with You - Shannon Stacey

For me, much of the appeal of Shannon Stacey's contemporary romances is that they are so totally down-to-earth, so basic. They are set in northern New England (as is my life), and they feature totally normal people -- waitresses, landscapers, diner owners, barbers, contractors, cops -- in totally normal situations, against a small-town backdrop that feels like the snowy, dingy, sleepy, neighborly small towns where I have lived, and not like a polished, twee Hollywood representation of "Small Town, USA." Usually, there isn't any contrived conflict or angsty melodrama; instead, the characters confront the sort of totally normal problems that totally normal people have, and they just happen to fall in love in the process. Sure, these aren't the most exciting romances out there, but I find them sweetly reassuring in their conviction that true love can blossom among ordinary people in ordinary circumstances.


This novella didn't work for me because the plot is premised upon a coincidence that is totally contrived and ridiculous, which is exactly the sort of plot WTFery that I read Shannon Stacey to escape. Darcy and Jake meet at trivia night in a bar. Darcy invites Jake to spend the night. He does, and the earth moves, angels sing, flowers burst spontaneously into bloom all up and down the eastern seacoast, blah blah blah.... She writes down her number, but he gets caught out in the rain, the ink runs, and... c'est la vie. He can't remember the name of the bar where they met, can't remember where her house is, didn't catch her last name: it's hopeless. . . . EXCEPT of course she works for Jake's best friend and business partner, and six weeks later, her boss sends her up north to East Bumbleshoot, NH, to help his buddy start up a new restaurant, and of course the buddy is the One Night Stand That Got Away. SURPRISE! 


Even setting aside my annoyance at the Contrived Coincidence, Darcy and Jake really have very poor communication skills. The conflict in the last half of the story, once they've been reunited, stems from their inability to talk to each other about their developing feelings and the logistical issues that stem from the fact that Darcy lives in Concord and Jake is increasingly happy in East Bumbleshoot, three hours away. Conflict driven by the main characters' inability to talk through their issues like grownups is always a big turn-off for me, and this was no exception. 


P.S. - Apparently, this is the 24th book I've read this year (X is XXIV, in Sock Poppet's A to Z 2014 Reading Challenge).