Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review: The Ladies' Room
The Ladies' Room by Carolyn Brown has the kind of whizz-bang women's-fiction-y style opening that reeled me in but good.  Trudy is trying to make it through her great-aunt Gertrude's funeral when the call of nature gets too loud to ignore.  She hustles into the ladies' room and while wrestling with her control top pantyhose, she overhears her "fashionably late" cousins come in.  They don't realize Trudy is there and promptly start talking about her behind her back.  That's when Trudy finds out that for the past 20 years she's been "Poor Trudy Bless Her Heart."  Her husband has been cheating on her since the day they married and worse still?  The whole blessed town knows about it and nobody thought to clue her in!  Oh, and her college-aged daughter is just back from Las Vegas, where she eloped with her boyfriend.

This breaks something inside of Trudy.  She leaves the funeral, hustles home, grabs a few meager belongings, and moves into the rundown house that Gertrude left her.  Trudy and the vile cousins were Gert's only remaining kin, and Trudy has inherited the whole shebang.  Falling down, rambling house stuffed to the gills with hideous knick-knacks.  She also inherited a hunky next door neighbor.  She grew up with Billy Lee Tucker and everyone in Tishomingo, Oklahoma finds him a bit "odd."  But Trudy doesn't find him odd at all! And they quickly become fast friends.

As much as I loved the opening in the ladies' room, everything after becomes a slog.  This is a story where literally nothing happens.  All the secondary characters are vile, until three of them miraculously see the light and show up on Trudy's doorstep to apologize profusely.  Billy Lee and Trudy spend time together either fixing up Gert's house or going on quick road trips.  Literally, that is it. Other than Poor Trudy Bless Her Heart being too obtuse to see what's right in front of her, there's no conflict to speak of in this story.

In Romancelandia we spend a fair amount of time bitching enthusiastically discussing Alphahole heroes.  Billy Lee is what happens When Beta Heroes Go Horribly Wrong.  Yep, our guy is a total Gary Stu.  He has zero personality.  Now, this might sound like just what the doctor ordered in light of current events and if you're a woman currently wondering if there are ANY decent men in the world - but Billy Lee is so far on the other end of the spectrum I began to suspect he was neutered.  He never elevates himself past wish fulfillment and frankly, he's kind of creepy.  For a while it truly feels like Trudy is a "substitute" for Gertrude, who was his neighbor and BFF for many years.

The other fly in the ointment here is Trudy's weight-loss which, given how hard I've worked to lose 25 pounds recently, had me rolling my eyes.  Here's a woman who manages to drop to a clothing size just by remodeling a house.  She's still stuffing her face with fried chicken, potato salad, pie and guzzling sweet tea and Coke.  But it could be the lack of carbs making me all cranky and bitter.

So yeah.  Great opening, solid premise, snooze-fest after that.  Also, I think it's worth noting that this was a RITA finalist in the Inspirational category several years back.  The characters go to church.  It's a part of their lives.  Also, this is a just-kisses romance with a years-from-now epilogue - so there's no sex, even of the closed door variety.  I have a hard time slapping the Inspirational label on it just for those reasons, but whatever.  What does Wendy know?

Final Grade = C-


Carole Rae said...

eh. Not for me this time.

azteclady said...


Why am I finding it so difficult to associate Carolyn Brown with inspirational?

Beyond which...yeah, not for me. It's taken me a solid year of changing eating habits and portion control to lose 20lbs, I'm not going to merrily go along with "oh, a bit of exercise and I can eat like a horse and look faaaaaabulous, dahling"

Wendy said...

Carole: Yeah, I think the only reason I got through it was because I listened to it on audio. Had to tried to read it in print I think it would have been a DNF (out of boredom).

AL: I've only "read" one other Carolyn Brown in the past - and that one I DNF'ed because I felt like I was trapped in "Redneck Hell." This one was better on that score, but the hero is so transparently Wish Fulfillment - I just couldn't. And yeah, the weight loss thing was just infuriating - although to be fair to Brown, it's a rare romance indeed that gets that right.