Crazy Thing Called Loved by Molly O'Keefe
The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Third in Crooked Creek trilogy, 2013, Bantam, In Print, RITA Winner Best Contemporary Romance 2014
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: O'Keefe is an autobuy.
The Review: All readers have their quirks, and Molly O'Keefe's career trajectory illustrates one of mine. I love category romance. Love it. Gimme, gimme, gimme. And when I find an author I like in category I'll read them until the wheels fall off and they're driving me over a cliff a la Thelma and Louise. But when/if they leave category to jump to single title? It's like my brain freezes up. I'll be blunt: a very common issue I have with single title contemporaries is that they feel bloated. I'm so in tune with the category format that it's like I go into single title contemporaries with a mental red pen poised in my hand. I don't feel this way about historical romance, just contemporaries. Yes, I know it's discriminatory and makes no sense, but there you have it.
Crazy Thing Called Love marks my first single title read by O'Keefe, which means I'm confident in saying that this third book in a trilogy stands alone well. I also tore through it. 1) Because my own TBR Challenge snuck up on me and 2) Because I literally could not go to sleep one night until I finished every last word. This story flowed for me from the first word to the last. And given that this is The Year of the Slump? Cue the music, commence with the happy dancing!
Madelyn Cornish is picture perfect. Host of a local Dallas TV morning show, she's come a long way from the girl who grew up poor in Pittsburgh. She's everything you expect from a TV host - polished, confident, razor sharp, and thin. Her entire life is diet, exercise, work, control. She took the lump of clay that was Maddy Baumgarten and has her eye on the prize - a shot at the big leagues. What Would Matt Lauer Do? However what nobody knows? When Maddy was 18 she married her high school sweetheart, Billy Wilkins. Billy Wilkins, notorious NHL enforcer (ahem, goon), who her producer now wants to feature on their show. Maddy did a lot to bury the past, she's not about to dig it up.
Billy's career is in a tailspin. Everyone loves a goon until they get old and the league decides they want to "clean up" the game. After a devastating loss that kicks their team out of the playoffs, Billy who has been riding the bench, kinda, sorta - well punches out an opposing player during the hand-shake line at the end of the game. The owner is pissed, his coach is pissed, his agent is practically begging, and the NHL is likely to bring the hammer down. What he needs is spin. Damage control. While he'd normally run in the other direction of a "make-over" on a daytime TV show he ends up saying yes. Not so much because of spin but because it means Maddy. Billy is still in love with her and moving on since their divorce has been impossible.
The prologue opens with their marriage imploding and kicks things off with a devastating start. What I enjoy about O'Keefe's couples is that she rarely makes one person "the bad guy" when things go south. I suspect some readers will have issues with Maddy who is very hung up on "losing herself" in Billy's wake, who has a way of sweeping her off her feet and making her forget she's her own person. I got this though - as let's be brutally honest - women losing their own identities in the wake of becoming wives (and/or mothers) isn't exactly uncommon. Also given Maddy's background (loving parents, but still kind of a tough childhood), her hang-ups make sense. For his part Billy is young and a touch selfish. There's plenty of blame to go around when their marriage implodes.
As the author carries the story along the angst gets progressively heavier. On the surface we have the fairly common reunion theme. In reality, with Billy and Maddy back in each others orbits, the skeletons of their past don't stay buried for long. Things get real complicated, real quick - which leaves Maddy, in particular, running scared.
This book got a fair share of praise when it was released, and obviously winning the RITA means a lot of folks really loved it. I'll be honest, it was just pleasant for me for the first half. A good, solid B read, but nothing that I was squee'ing about. And then the second half happened. I was hesitant, at first, about the turn O'Keefe takes, but it ended up really working out well. So well in fact that by the time I was finished reading the epilogue it was 1AM and I was choking back tears. Always a good thing. Well, maybe not the 1AM on a "school night" - but, oh happy sigh! I'm still undecided if I'll ever reread this, but hot damn, it's a good 'un.
Final Grade = A-