Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: Summer Nights

Brace yourself kiddies - this one is going to be bumpy.

As amazing as I know this is going to sound, I've never read Susan Mallery before.  Despite the fact that she's written somewhere in the ballpark of 761 books and despite the fact that she has a huge category backlist.  She's also quite popular among library readers.  So when I was approached to review Summer Nights, the eighth book in her Fool's Gold series, I said yes.  Certainly it had a little something to do with the librarian heroine, but also because I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Annabelle Weiss is the librarian in Fool's Gold and very short (which Mallery reminds us of over and over and over again....).  She also needs to learn to ride a horse oh, and to make said horse "dance."  Annabelle needs a bookmobile, which is going to cost money, which means it's time for a fundraiser.  She thinks the way to do this is to reenact some horse-dancing ritual thing that the native Maa-zib women performed for some town parade.  She goes to new guy in town Shane Stryker (seriously?) to teach her.

Shane has met Annabelle already, sort of.  He saw her dancing on the bar at the local watering hole (which apparently only women go to and the men avoid - see my eyes rolling back in my head) and naturally has pegged her as being exactly like his traitorous slut of an ex-wife (yeah, we all know where this is going).  He wants a nice, boring, quiet woman and his mother suggests the town librarian, who is a very nice girl dontcha know.  Then he meets Annabelle, sees that his bar dancin' wild woman is also the town librarian and his world goes topsy turvy.

Books like Summer Nights are the reason I have such a hard time with single title contemporaries.  I was literally destroying this with my mental red pen the entire time I was reading it.  It's fat, it's bloated, it's crammed so full of unnecessary, mind-numbing secondary characters that my eyes started to bleed.  This series centers around the town of Fool's Gold and apparently that means everybody who lives in the town must pop up on page, not doing a damn thing to further along the course of the romance - which is really what we're here for, right?  I don't know these people.  I don't care about these people.  I should be caring about Shane and Annabelle and wanting their romance to get off the ground - and instead I'm reading about Shane's mother's pet elephant and how the elephant is lonely and needs friends and oh look she's made friends with a pony and Shane hates ponies and gee, isn't that like the cutest thing ever?

No!  I don't care!  No, no, no!  Romance!  Annabelle!  Shane!  Falling in love!  That's what I care about!  Where is that?!?!?!

Sorry, where were we?  Oh yeah, Series-itis Hell.

That's not to say I was ever lost, or confused, or didn't know what was going on.  No, Mallery brings me up to speed.  It's just all these people don't matter.  I'm sorry series fans, they don't.  They've had their moment in the sun, or else their moment is coming in book number whatever, and this is now Annabelle's and Shane's time.  Which means the less time spent on them, the less I believe in the romance.  Which is a problem because Shane's inability to trust Annabelle, even though she does absolutely nothing to warrant his misgivings, make this romance a dead duck from the word go.  Why Annabelle keeps sticking around is beyond me.

Oh yeah, the bookmobile.  Politicians, this is what happens when you cut library funding.  Librarians have to resort to hanging around cowboys (albeit hunky ones) who compare them to their slutty ex-wives.  Dude.  Here at the Bat Cave we love us some cowboys, but even we're not willing to hang out with asshole cowboys.

On the bright side?  Mallery manages to hit all the right librarian notes.  I've worked in both rural and urban libraries, and the small town librarian depiction is a fairly solid one.  I also liked that Annabelle is divorced, not uptight, and isn't a walking librarian stereotype.  All very good things.

So where does that leave us?  With sweeping statements.  If you're a fan of this series, you're probably not reading this review, nor do you give a flying fig what I think.  You're juiced in, you're hooked, and more power to you.  We all have series we love, and if this is yours - enjoy it in in good health.  However if you're over small town romances and find your eyes crossing at the very thought of another series?  Yeah, this is unlikely to make you see the error of your ways.  As for me, when I wasn't bored silly, I was annoyed.  Two emotions I really don't like to experience when I'm reading a book.

Grade = D

20 comments:

Gina @ Hott Books said...

Aww! I'm so sorry you didn't like it. Oddly enough - what you hated about it was exactly what I loved. I can even go so far as to say that I was sorry that so few characters I know and love were visited.
Why don't you try one of her non-series books. The romance is terrific!

LoriK said...

I've read a handful of Mallory's other books, but never got into the Fool's Gold series so maybe I'm missing something. Isn't Fool's Gold some tiny little place? Why do they need a bookmobile so badly? Aren't bookmobiles usually found in larger towns/small cities? Ones that don't exactly need and can't support branch libraries, but are too large for a single library to be convenient for everyone?

Beyond that nit pick, I think Gina has a point about long-running small town series. Those that love them really like all the appearances by repeat characters. I think the individual books aren't so much about the romance of a given pair of people as they are about events in the life of the town. That's obviously not everyone's cuppa. It's really not mine, but I get what people like about it

FD said...

Two words: Dancing horses. I could tell right there that whatever the romance was like this would not be a book for me. You are a brave, brave woman reading books that feature your profession. I flinch from books with things I know about in RL - repeated bad experiences with romances containing horses, HR or law. I salute your resilience.

Wendy said...

Gina: And that's the thing - I think if you're a fan who is hooked on this series, you'll really like this book. Especially since Mallery lays quite a bit of groundwork for Charlie's story.

Wendy said...

LoriK: The need for a bookmobile is because there are a lot of outlying, rural areas surrounding Fool's Gold. Over the course of this book Annabelle talks about visiting migrant workers, shut-ins and disabled people delivering them library materials. She also wants to outfit the bookmobile with wifi and laptops. So I bought into that aspect.

I cut my reading teeth on cozy mysteries, so I "get" the small town thing, and I really do understand the appeal of revisiting characters. It's when those characters aren't really serving a purpose that I get cranky. I'd almost rather authors try not to bite off more than they can chew. Maybe just feature a few select characters. Do they ALL really need to show up with each new book?

Wendy said...

FD: LOL! Yeah, the cutesy quotient does run a little high in this book - and that's another reason it ended up not being for me. The minute the elephant shows up on the scene I knew it was not going to go well.

When it comes to my profession in fiction there really isn't any middle ground. Either authors seem to get it "right" or they get it spectacularly wrong. I can always tell when an author at least talks to a librarian, and having worked in a rural, small town library - I can say that Mallery really gets the feel and tone of that kind of work right. It really is a different ball of wax than working in a larger, urban public library environment.....

AnimeJune said...

OMG, you tried Susan Mallery. You poor thing! Ugh. I've read four of her books, and that's as far as I'll go. While she has a deft hand with female characters, her heroes are some of the biggest pricks you'll find this side of Judith McNaught.

Remember that book I tore my hair out about, the one where the "hero" throws the pregnant heroine out on her ass and calls her slut, only to act all surprised and try to steal her kid when she comes back five years later? That was a Mallery (Sweet Trouble) Those books slutshame like it's nobody's business.

Blessed x3 said...

Summer Nights is a great summer read. Annabelle is caring, a great friend, & so sweet! I love that Annabelle wanted to learn how to ride a horse for her fundraiser for her bookmobile. I love how Shane wanted to help kids learn to ride horse. I was really touched when Charlie brought the child with the burns to Castle Ranch to ride. My daughter is disabled & has been riding horses since she was 5 or 6. She is now 12 years old. Summer Nights touched my heart a lot. Summer Nights is my favorite book in the entire Fool's Gold series! I give 5 stars!

Kristie (J) said...

Back in the day - and not so long ago really - Susan Mallery was an autobuy for me. But she wrote one too many cringe worthy books and I *sad sigh* dropped her. I haven't read her for a few years now and I don't think your review is going to make me change my mind :-)

~ames~ said...

This one made it onto my radar because of the description of the hero as a horse whisperer. But now I will be staying far away. I haven't read any other book in this series and I don't particularly care to meet those other characters, especially if they don't add to the romance.

Thanks for this review!

Marguerite Kaye said...

Funnily enough I read the first of Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap recently, and had all the same problems. It too was small town with a zillion secondary characters AND a mobile library. Hugely popular, but I just didn't get it. Too many things going on and not enough of the thing I was nterested in, and the added annoyance of a first person narrative that for me just didn't work. I can see why it's so popular (mine was a well-stamped library copy) but it just doesn't work for me.

Wendy said...

AnimeJune: Yeah, I liked the heroine here - it was everything else I had issues with. I'm not sure why that is - but you see it with some writers. They write great heroes or great heroines and the rest of it makes you want to tear your hair out....

Wendy said...

Blessed: And I'm glad you enjoyed it. Again, I think for readers who are already plugged in to this series, that they're going to love seeing all those characters again.

Wendy said...

Kristie: Yeah, the elephant really lost me here. It just seemed so....cutesy. I did like that Mallery was portraying positive female friendships, and the librarian stuff is good - but the rest of it just didn't do it for me.

Wendy said...

Ames: The kicker is he's NOT a horse whisperer. He's purchased a stallion with a reputation for being trouble - and naturally just Annabelle breathing is enough to charm the "scary" horse. So really, Annabelle is the horse whisperer, although other than riding him, we don't see her doing ANY "horse whisperer-y" work/techniques.

Wendy said...

Marguerite: The older I get, the more I like defined "ends" to romance series. Give me a trilogy and leave it at that. The flip-side is I can't get enough of suspense series - but the genre allows you to follow the same protagonist(s) over and over again. With romance, you need to give readers that happy ending for the couple. And then it's a series, so readers and authors want those characters back.....

And it clutters everything up.

joykenn said...

Strangely Wendy I decided to read Mallery for the first time based on your review...even a negative one. I agree the library stuff was very well done. I actually liked the heroine quite a bit and thought the hero was a jerk. I didn't get annoyed, however, by everyone popping in but kind of intrigued and checked out a few more in the series. I won't buy them but I'll use the library copies when I'm in the mood. She's a pretty talented writer that I somehow missed up to now. [See even your negative reviews gain readers!]

joykenn said...

Hey, one more thing. The cover. Fool's Gold wasn't on a beach so what's with the cuddle on the beach with the sun setting behind the waves??? Or did I miss something major here??

Wendy said...

Joy: I liked the heroine too - and yeah, not so much the hero. I had real issues with him. Yippee that you're intrigued enough to check out other titles! I always love it when I stumble across a new series and/or author.

Not only did I not "get" the cover - I also didn't "get" the title. It all seemed very vague, and didn't really tie into the book/story....at all. Unless maybe we're both missing something? Maybe if you try other books in the series you'll find out the answers :)

~ames~ said...

Good to know. Thanks for clarifying. LOL