Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: Pippa And The Mysterious Maze

The BookNobody's Hero by Carrie Alexander (Sigh, web site is grossly out of date)

The Particulars: Harlequin SuperRomance #1504; 2008; Out of print, Available digitally; Part of connected duet that includes the excellent A Holiday Romance.

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  Carrie Alexander is an autobuy for me in the HSR line. 

The Review:  Sean Raffety is a Massachusetts state trooper looking for a little solitude.  Recovering from a gun shot wound from a traffic stop gone bad, he answers an ad for a home-swap vacation.  Alice Potter is living it up at his parents' condo in Arizona, and he's hanging out at her cozy cabin on tiny Osprey Island (off the coast of Maine).  His plan is to lay low and lick his wounds.  In other words, be a hermit.  He didn't plan on a pint-sized 10-year-old, obsessed with Trixie Belden, dogging his heels.  And he sure as hell didn't plan on finding her mother so dang attractive either.

Connie Bradford is working on the island.  A master gardener, she's restoring an overgrown garden maze for some wealthy island residents.  Her husband, Phil, died from leukemia three years ago and she's still trying to find ways to reach out to their daughter, Pippa.  Pippa is inquisitive, precocious, and independent.  She clings to her old Trixie Belden books because it was something she shared with her father.  But now that fascination with Trixie has her gallivanting off, inventing "mysteries," and sticking her nose in places where it most certainly does not belong.  She was hoping this trip to the island would distract Pippa away from fictional mysteries, and instead she ends up roping in Sean Rafferty.

This is an interesting read, charmingly cozy and a bit of a love letter to all the little girls out there who fell hard for the "girl sleuth" books.  I myself was a bit enamored with Nancy Drew as a tween, and even though I didn't own a pair of binoculars or keep a notebook filled with "curious observations" - I could see my love of puzzles and mysteries reflected back at me in Pippa.  The author even gives the girl a little mystery to unravel, complete with overheard conversations, secret meetings, and spooky fog rolling in.  It's gives Pippa's world a Gothic feel without, you know, really being a Gothic.

That said, as much as I liked the story and the characters, the romance here lacks some sizzle.  Yes, this one is G-rated, but G-rated books still need to "sizzle" for me even if it's only "tension."  Sean and Connie are nice people.  Good, solid people who deserve some happiness.  However, their romance lacks any real sense of urgency.  Sean has plenty of baggage (the shooting, an ex and a teenage son) but it's baggage that doesn't really seem to haunt him.  He doesn't brood.  Which on one hand is good.  Nothing worse than a mopey hero.  But on the other it's not-so-good since it means there's not a lot of emotional tension between our romantic couple. 

Most of the conflict to this story centers around Pippa getting into various scrapes, and then during the second half, Sean's kid shows up.  Mostly it's about the kids, and should Sean and Connie even try to start seeing each other.  Is the timing all wrong?  Which hey, is amazingly true to life, but not always the most exciting conflict to read about.

I'm going to be honest though, I read this book in a day.  Which at the state my reading mojo is in right now (somewhere around Siberia), is nothing to sneeze at.  Also, while I generally have a low tolerance for precocious kidlets getting into various shenanigans, the whole Trixie Belden angle charmed the hell out of me.  I think I'll hang on to this one for my Mom to read when she visits me in a couple of months.  It didn't light my world on fire, but it's cute....in a good way.

Final Grade = B-

21 comments:

Victoria Janssen said...

I was such a Trixie Belden fan - they had horses in them!

JamiSings said...

I read some of the girl mysteries as a kid, but I'm all about Alfred Hitchcock And The Three Investigators. So much so that I decided instead of a super expensive engagement ring, if a guy ever wants to marry me, I'll be happy with a $200 ring and the entire AHATTI series in hardback. (Last I looked a complete set goes for somewhere between $3,000 to $6,000.)

Lynn Spencer said...

Oh, this does sound cute. And, I just might have held on to most of my old Trixie Belden books. :)

Hilcia said...

Wendy, this sounds like a cute "family" oriented romance (emphasis on family). That's nice, but yeah... I need me some of that tension to the romance to keep it around.

I didn't read "girl mysteries" as a child. No Nancy Drew for me. :(

Kristie (J) said...

This one doesn't sound bad, plus the guy on the cover reminds me of Kane, one of my favourite characters from Young and the Restless, but a lack of sizzle - hmm, I like sizzle and I've already to many in the TBR pile

azteclady said...

Dagnabbit, Wendy, not another one for my 'get at some point' list!


heh

Wendy said...

I know somebody who read Nancy Drew because she had a cool car and a cute boyfriend :)

Wendy said...

I wasn't a terribly out-going kid - shy and gawky, so books about pretty, popular girls (think Sweet Valley High) had ZERO appeal. I liked the girl sleuth books because I liked unraveling those mysteries. Gave my brain something to chew on.

Wendy said...

The Trixie Belden angle was really cute. My favorite part of the book and reminded me of my childhood.

Wendy said...

Yeah, the romance was lacking a little something. "Oomph" maybe. I generally like G-rated reads, and have enjoyed many - but this one wasn't quite there.....

Wendy said...

Kristie: Yeah, it needed more tension.

If you're curious to try Alexander, I highly recommend the other book in this series - A Holiday Romance. I have a link to my TGTBTU review for that one in "The Particulars" section of this post.

Wendy said...

AL: I've enjoyed many of Alexander's HSRs - she typically lands somewhere around my B range. The lowest grade I think I've ever given one of her books is a C (a Christmas book from a few years back that just felt too bloated with secondary characters).

nath said...

It sounds really good, Wendy :) LOL, I like precocious kidlet :) Especially ones that would follow the hero LOL. Too bad it doesn't have that sizzle... but still sounds good to me :) And I don't think I've read this author before...

JamiSings said...

Yeah, I only read SVH because my friends read them, but I was reading at a college level in 5th grade, so I didn't care for most children's books back then. However I loved ones like Encyclopedia Brown and AHATTI - especially the latter as the kids seemed more realistic than Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. None were rich. Jupiter was fat and smart, Bob wasn't very athletic and worked in a library, and Peter was a jock and a total scaredy-cat. He always wanted to run away long before Bob and Jupe.

Amy said...

Late as always, I am. Will post on Monday cuz I suck like that.

Christine said...

The story sounds really cute. I'm with nath and adore a precocious kid in books now and then. Like you, I prefer some sizzle in my romance--even if it's just romantic tension and some well placed stolen kisses. :)

Wendy said...

Nath: You might really like this one then, since the book opens up with the kid "spying" on the hero :) It was a cute read, just not one that lit my world on fire in the romance department.

Wendy said...

Christine: We mostly get stolen kisses here. I think this was just a matter of where I found the "stuff" surrounding the romance more interesting than the romance. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, but kind of tricky when we're talking category romance.

Amy said...

FINALLY got my review up! Late-to-the-party, that's my middle name.

*Goddess* said...

I finally read this book and I agree, the romance was thin, but the Jr. Detective angle was so sweet.

Being a big Bobsey Twins fan when I was little, I loved the Trixie Belden angle and that Pippa carried a Book of Observations around:)

But I was a tad disappointed in the end also. I thought their time together was WAY too short to cement a lifetime together so I wasn't sensing an honest HEA, which disappointed me. Yes, I worry about these things...LOL! Plus I thought the theft thing was rather lame, but of course, Trixie needed a case to solve!

Wendy said...

Goddess: Yeah, I think for me if there had been a little more tension to the romance, some "oomph" - I would have been sold more on the HEA. As it was, it felt thin to me too. The Pippa/Trixie Belden angle is what REALLY carried this book for me. It was just really sweet, and gave me that warm fuzzy feeling of childhood memories....