Tuesday, December 26, 2017

#DeckTheHarlequin: Maid Under the Mistletoe

A single Mom heroine, an emotionally wounded hero who has shut himself off from the outside world, and forced proximity during the holiday season.  Yeah, I was all in on Maid Under the Mistletoe by Maureen Child.  Unfortunately it ended up being an instance where the premise was the best thing about the story and the execution left a lot to be desired.

After the death of his wife and toddler son, Sam Henry, an accomplished artist, gave up painting and moved to the mountains of Idaho.  He is in town so rarely that the locals have a running betting pool on when he'll show up again (the last guy who guessed right won $200!).  It's just him and a live-in housekeeper who cooks, cleans and lets him be (for the most part - she does mother hen him with her occasional nagging).  The fly in the ointment is that every December she takes off with a girlfriend for a month-long cruise.  But she tells him not to worry.  Her friend, Joy, is going to come and work as a temp.  Joy's apartment just had an electrical fire and it's going to take a month (at least) for the work to be finished and the apartment habitable again.  So really, it's win-win for everybody involved.

Until Sam actually meets Joy Curran.  For one thing she's young, very pretty, and has a 5-year-old girl, Holly, in tow.  Nobody mentioned Holly.  Or how pretty Joy was.  Or how sweet, nice, charming, and really a breath of fresh air that has begun to infuse light into Sam's dark and lonely world.

This starts out as a pretty solid read.  Sam is Beast to Joy's Beauty.  He's emotionally distant and she's bubbly and sweet.  Unfortunately it all begins to wear down after a short while because that's ALL Joy is.  She's sweet, and cute and naturally she's a great cook.  Sam basically lets her stay because she CAN cook and the idea of living on frozen pizza fails to appeal.  A heroine's worth that is wrapped up in large part because of her domestic skills is one that I would call grating.  Great, she can cook.  I need more than that and frankly, so should the hero.

Holly is a sweet kid and while she's a Plot Moppet, she's at least a realistic one.  She talks a mile a minute, in that stream of conscious way that young children do, and she's obsessed with princesses, fairies and fairy princesses.  So yeah, she's cutesy-wootsy - but hardly the most offensive Plot Moppet I've encountered in Romancelandia and after all, this IS a Christmas romance.

No, where this story slides from "OK, not my thing but still OK" to "You have got to be eff'ing kidding me?!" is when the author breaks the fourth wall and with a sex scene that makes me want to burn this book to the MF'ing ground.  Then I couldn't finish this slim 180+ page Desire fast enough.

Joy has a web design / personal assistant business.  It allows her to work from home and keep Holly out of day care.  For literally no reason that I can decipher (in other words, it does not move the story forward) the author tosses in this little nugget:
"Almost honey," she said, clearing her throat and focusing again on the comments section of her client's website.  For some reason people who read books felt it was okay to go on the author's website and list the many ways the author could have made the book better.  Even when they loved it, they managed to sneak in a couple of jabs.  It was part of Joy's job to remove the comments that went above and beyond a review and deep into the real of harsh criticism.
WHY?!?!?!?!?!  Yes, readers who e-mail the author or leave comments on the author's web site about why a book was "bad" are rude - but WHY IS THIS IN YOUR ROMANCE NOVEL?!?!?!  Because the romance what - needed a side of reading shaming to make us believe in the happy ending?  WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!?

OK, but really - Wendy, you're being too sensitive.  Roll on McDuff.  Just finish the book and slap this bad boy with a C and be done with it.  Well, that was until I got to the sex scene.
"Joy, the downside to things happening by surprise is you're not prepared for it."  She smiled.  "I'd say you were plenty prepared." He rolled again, flopping her over onto the mattress and leaning over her, staring her in the eyes.  "I'm trying to tell you that I hope to hell you're on birth control because I wasn't suited up."
OMG.....WHY?!?!?!?!?!??!!  ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!??!?!?!?  Because OF COURSE our SINGLE MOTHER isn't on birth control.  BECAUSE OMG OF COURSE SHE ISN'T!!!!!  I don't believe in violence but seriously, I want a gun. Or a knife.  Or a really heavy book that I can throw at her head.

But just in case I'm not insulted enough the author doubles down.  Golly, the hero DID have condoms.  They were just in HIS bedroom but they were SO HOT for each other they didn't make it that far and oopsie his penis fell into the heroine and they had unprotected sex instead.

OMG....WHY?!?!?!?!!?  ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!?!?!?!?  SERIOUSLY, THE AUTHOR IS TRYING TO KILL ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I just can't even.  I'm done.  I want to run over the Mary Sue heroine, lose the Plot Moppet daughter in the woods, drop the hero off at the nearest remote cave to live out his hermit days and burn this book to the ground.  Merry frickin' Christmas and a bah humbug to you.

Final Grade = D 


azteclady said...

Well, shit.

It may be unfair of me, but the trifecta of vapid heroine whose value resides in her domestic skills; needless authorial intrusion to jab at readers (rude or not, what the author does there is beyond rude--reader shaming indeed!), and the hero knowingly having unprotected sex, despite actually having protection available, then being blasé about it? ("I hope you are on birth control"? seriously?), means I'm not reading anything else by this author.

Which also means cleaning up my TBR (I know I have a few of her books in both the physical and the digital cordilleras), and adding the author to my NEVER READING list.

Wendy said...

AL: And to make the whole thing even more "WTF" - I got this book via Netgalley. So the whole pointless paragraph about readers leaving comments on an author's web site was in an ARC I got from Netgalley. The irony, it's waist deep.

Laura Vivanco said...

Snerk! That is very ironic.

"It was part of Joy's job to remove the comments that went above and beyond a review and deep into the real of harsh criticism."

I can only imagine how much deleting Joy would be doing if she saw this review!

Jazz Let said...

Urgh, just urgh. I have a nephew who is the result of two sixteen year olds having sex for the first time. He's lovely, but also proof that, yes, you can get pregnant that easily.

I do value domestic skills, especially cooking, but if that is all there is to a heroine then she'll bore the hell out of me.

Wendy said...

Laura: Aha! Which would be why I tend to vent on my own blog and don't leave comments on an author's website LOL. Seriously though, I need to get better about e-mailing authors when I LOVE one of their books. I'm not so great about doing that.

Jazz: It just killed me. Every single mother I've ever known in my life - birth control was not a shrug of a the shoulders and "oh well." They were quite serious on the subject!

And I didn't mention this in the review, but what also really bothered me was how the heroine let her daughter get so close to the hero - even knowing he was this closed off hermit type. I mean, the thought that her daughter would get too attached and get her heart broken doesn't really sink into her thick skull until that's exactly what happens. So yeah, problematic all the way around.

Lynn Balabanos said...

Sigh. I love category because when it's right, it's soooo right. Unfortunately, it can often take a sharp left and nose dive straight into "I can't believe I'm reading this, where is the lighter, I need to set this on fire" land. Thanks for the review. I know to mark this one off my holiday reading list.

Anonymous said...

I quite like reading through a post that can make people
think. Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!

Wendy said...

Lynn: Truer words! I often say that well-done category is like magic. It just *feels* special. But when it's bad? Oh man, it can be SO bad.

Anonymous: You are welcome! I was sad when I had to disallow anon comments because of stupid spam :(