Monday, December 29, 2014

A Beaumont Christmas Wedding
Disclaimer: Anderson and I presented a workshop together at RWA 2014 (San Antonio).

Back in the Long Ago Time when Wendy first discovered the goody-goodness that is category romance, Desire was my favorite line.  I loved the short word counts (less than 200 pages), the sizzle (PG-13ish), and you still got the fairy tale without wading through too many Alphahole sheikh tycoons.  And then, predictably, the Desire line changed to the point where it started smacking of Harlequin Presents II, just with more cowboys and babies.  I strayed from the line, taking my category addiction elsewhere.

Then in 2011 I was standing outside a conference room, on my way to a cocktail party at RWA (this was Wendy's Librarian of the Year year - there were lots of parties!) and I met Sarah M. Anderson a debut author whose first book was slated for a December release.  As tends to happen when I meet authors at RWA, I read her book, and really, really liked it.  It reminded me so much of "old school" Desires that I started to pay attention to the line again.

A Beaumont Christmas Wedding is the third book in her series about an American brewing dynasty that puts the FUN in DYSFUNCTIONAL!  Matthew Beaumont is the PR whiz for the company and has convinced his six months older half brother (remember, FUN!), Phillip and his bride-to-be, Jo to have a big splashy society wedding.  Being one of his father's long string of illegitimate bastards, Matthew has a driving need to prove that he's a "real" Beaumont and his way of doing that is controlling and spinning the press, all while digging his various siblings out of various PR snafus.  What he didn't plan on?  The maid of honor, Whitney Maddox....or should I say Whitney Wildz.

Think of Whitney as an older, wiser Miley Cyrus.  She was a Disney Channel-like pop princess who sex'ed and boozed up her act once she hit 18 to make everyone forget she was a Disney Channel-like pop princess.  Publicity follows Whitney around like Britney Spears back when she had her meltdown and shaved her head.  Anywho, those days are long past.  Whitney is a respected horse breeder, which is how she knows Jo, and lives a very quiet, solitary life.  But this does little to quell Matthew's concerns.  Whitney Wildz at his brother's wedding?  This can only mean disaster.

I wanted to like this story more than I did.  On paper it's a really great idea.  Matthew is damn near wedding obsessed and is wound so tight I wouldn't be surprised if he pooped out diamonds.  These are normally character traits reserved for romance heroines, more so than heroes.  And I liked the idea of Whitney being a reformed teen idol who is now living life as a normal person, but who has enough of a past that she's going to generate headlines once those cell phone cameras start clicking.  Plus both characters have very similar baggage - they essentially don't know who they are.  Is Whitney Whitney Maddox or Whitney Wildz?  Is Matthew Matthew Beaumont or Matthew Billings?  That's compelling conflict for a romance novel.

So where does it misfire for me?  Mostly with execution.  The way Matthew wants to spin the PR after he discovers just who the maid of honor is doesn't make it seem like he's that good at his job - but then I always thought a good defense was a good offense.  Also, there's events during the climactic finish that struck me as not very plausible.  I mean, by all accounts the Phillip/Jo wedding is a big ol' society event with muchos celebrities crawling out of the woodwork (although Jay Z and Beyonce sent their regrets).  I had a hard time believing that a once scandalous teen idol who had dropped out of the public eye would cause that much of a stir at such an event - but hey, what do I know?

There's also the small matter that Matthew is a bit of a jerk.  I actually still "liked" him despite him being a jerk because the author made me believe in his baggage.  But, that being said?  He still does some things over the course of the story that had me muttering under my breathe. Both instances were when he used his family members for his own gain in some way - especially Phillip's alcoholism, which was beyond the pale for me since I loved Phillip's book.  Baggage, Wendy has it.  Also, speaking of substance issues, I felt like this aspect of Whitney's past was not addressed very well.  Or, at all.  Granted the author just published a book where substance abuse was a big, huge part of the conflict, but the surface is barely scratched with Whitney.  Instead we get to read about her klutziness, which I suspect like all klutz heroines before her I'm supposed to find "cute."  But I don't.  I'm just kind of annoyed.  Hold the klutz, give me the Angsty McAngst-Pants please.

Which makes it sound like this is a "bad" book.  No, it's not.  It's really quite readable, I enjoyed most of it, and there were even two instances where I laughed out loud (the name of Whitney's Christmas album is priceless!).  It just didn't tick off all of Wendy's Personal Trope Boxes and I found myself comparing it quite a bit (OK, a lot) to Phillip's book.  Which, you know, I really, really enjoyed.

Final Grade = B-


Nikki said...

I read this one and felt it was just okay. Like you, I thought Matthew was overreacting to Whitney's ID. Did you think Miley Cyrus, by the way? That kind of pulled me out of the story. And her relationship with Phillip's fiance wasn't really explained to my satisfaction. I understood that part--it just didn't seem genuine to me. However, I haven't read Phillip's books, but I certainly will BOLO for it.

Wendy said...

Nikki: I immediately thought "oh, like a grown-up Miley" - but was able to file it away after that. That connection didn't bother me to the point of being pulled out of the story. I actually kind of liked the idea.

This was definitely a book where the parts didn't quite come together as a whole, for me. There was stuff I liked here, but something about the execution never quite gelled. And I'll be honest - it probably suffered a bit in comparison to Phillip's book, which I really enjoyed immensely. I might have still had Previous Good Book In The Series Hangover :)