Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mini-Reviews: A Mini Molly O'Keefe Glom

Outside of inhaling the shorts for this month's TBR Challenge, I've had trouble setting a reading rhythm at the start of 2019.  Case in point, after the Challenge I promptly DNF'ed two books.  When this happens I always fear that the problem is with me, so I decided to stop futzing around and read a Molly O'Keefe already.  It worked for me in January 2018, surely it can work one year later.  And it did.  While both Bad Neighbor and Baby, Come Back are full of problematic elements, I fell so hard into this world that I pulled out 24 hours later feeling a mixture of drunk and hungover.

Bad Neighbor finds our heroine, Charlotte, bailing out her beautiful, impulsive twin sister, Abby, yet again.  Their entire relationship has been like that.  Charlotte the mature, responsible one with social anxiety.  Abby, the one who skates through life on her looks, manipulating men along the way, and always going to her sister to bail her out with the heat gets too intense.  Well, Abby has done it now.  She's fallen for a bad man - a mob enforcer who she saw kill a man.  Charlotte, not even blinking an eye, prices her condo to sell, gives Abby half the money to take off, and moves into a seedy apartment complex near the airport.  That's where she meets her smoking hot new neighbor, Jesse, who puts the grump in grumpy asshole.  Who fights in underground MMA matches that are held in the complex's equally seedy basement.  Oh, and guess who is older brother is?  Yep.

The conflict does rely on an amazing coincidence, especially given the story takes place in the Bay Area, but I was able to roll with it.  O'Keefe has a knack for writing asshole heroes who aren't too far gone, and Jesse resides in the same zip code as Dylan from the Everything I Left Unsaid series.  Charlotte is innocence and light to Jesse's dark and scary - their respective baggage makes them a good fit as a couple and you understand why they are the way they are and why they would be attracted to each other.

After finishing Bad Neighbor, there was no way I wasn't starting Baby, Come Back right away, even though I knew it was going to be choppier waters.  Abby is on the run and Jesse's big brother (the mob enforcer), Jack, is determined to find her.  Jack was forced into the life to pay for his degenerate father's gambling debts and who he really is has been slowly eroding away.  This book opens prior to the events of Bad Neighbor, when Abby first meets Jack and does all the stupid crap girls like her always seem to do.

Ultimately it's my own baggage that kept me from enjoying this story as much as the first one.  Girls like Abby get on my last hot nerve.  Girls who play the part, manipulate, throw their hair around, because the gods have gifted them with beauty. Yes, society plays a part in this. And yes, for girls like Abby life isn't the sunshine and roses girls like me necessarily think it is. Time and again Jack tells her he's not a good guy.  Time and again she doesn't listen.  And when she's confronted with what Jack and her instincts have been telling her all along?  It's like some great big ol' shock to her.

Our hero murders a man.  He's a bad man.  A very, very bad man. But murder him he does. That's, um, a little hard for me to reconcile.  Looking at other reviews, it doesn't seem to have been as much of a problem for other readers.  Depending on the type of reader you are?  Mileage is gonna vary.

Anyway, once we're past the set-up then the book moves into Jack finding Abby and them working through "stuff" and hello happy ending.  Did I swallow it as a reader?  Well, I wanted to, so I did but....problematic.

I'm making this sound really gross.  It is...and yet it isn't.  Don't ask me how I'd grade this.  It sucked me in and I couldn't stop reading, but how does one recommend a book featuring a beautiful manipulator as a heroine and a murderer (even if you consider it justifiable homicide) as the hero.  I'm falling on the side of "liking this" because again, sucked in couldn't put it down, and at the end of the day it's totally OK to like problematic "stuff" if you're fully aware it's problematic.

Assigning one grade to the books as a pair: Final Grade = B.

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