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Books Read in 2014: LOVE OVERDUE by Pamela Morsi

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi

Book Blurb:
Buttoned-up book lover DJ is all sensible shoes, drab skirts and studious glasses. After an ill-advised spring-break-fueled fling left her mortified, she’s committed to her prim and proper look. When she’s hired by a rural library in middle-of-nowhere Kansas, she finally has the lifestyle to match-and she can’t wait to get her admin on.

But it’s clear from day one that the small-town library is more interested in circulating rumors than books. DJ has to organize her unloved library, win over oddball employees and avoid her flamboyant landlady’s attempts to set her up with the town pharmacist. Especially that last part-because it turns out handsome Scott Sanderson is her old vacation fling! She is not sure whether to be relieved or offended when he doesn’t seem to recognize her. But with every meeting, DJ finds herself secretly wondering what it would be like to take off her glasses, unpin her bun and reveal the inner vixen she’s been hiding from everyone-including herself.

My Review:

Story: 3 stars

      Goodreads bookshelves: books-read-in-2014, contemporary-romance
      Read from January 26 to February 18, 2014

There were lots of things to like about this book, especially the setting and the cast of secondary characters.

Unfortunately, there were as many or more things not to like about this book, and they tended to be more problematic.

The setup has potential. Eight years ago, prudish Dorothy Jarrow (D.J.) went to the beach for spring break and her 21st birthday just to see what she’s missing. She ended up having a mind-blowing one-night-stand with a handsome stranger. Now, eight years later, having both regretted and looked back with some longing on that night ever since, she’s a tightly wound, buttoned up librarian (seriously—bun, glasses, gray skirt suits!) who’s just accepted a job as the head of a library in Verdant, Kansas—mostly at the machinations of the head of the library board, Viv Sanderson (possibly the only person on the library board, for though we meet a lot of other townsfolk, we never meet another library board member). Viv is a widow whose son is the town pharmacist, like his late father before him; and she’s convinced that D.J. and Scott belong together—to the point she hired a P.I. to investigate D.J. before offering her the job, without ever meeting in person (from an online resume/interview).

So, of course, Viv’s son, Scott Sanderson, turns out to be “the hot guy” from spring break eight years before. But while D.J. remembers him clearly, he doesn’t recognize her (even though he’s dreamed/fantasized about that night ever since, too). However, out of fear that he will, D.J. becomes an absolute shrew and treats him like garbage whenever they’re thrown together. Which is, of course, often. Scott, having gone through a public and embarrassing romance, wedding, and divorce followed by a brief (and regretted) affair with a married woman, SHOULD be jaded when it comes to relationships. But there’s never really a glimmer that he’s learned much from his previous relationships—other than that he’s still “in love” with his “sparkle girl” from spring break eight years before (which happened before he got married).

As with all romance novels, the reader knows it’s inevitable that the two main characters are going to end up together. What we anticipate is how they end up together—it’s the relationship building that keeps me engaged in a romance novel. There wasn’t a whole lot of that here.

      Let me take a moment to gripe about a technical aspect of the book that drove me absolutely nuts. One of the things I learned and that I now teach about fiction writing is that you never go back in time to show a different person’s POV of the scene that just ended. Doing so halts the story momentum and confuses the reader who expects the story to follow a linear progression. Scene break (or chapter break in this case) means that we’ve moved another step forward in time. Morsi, however, has a tendency to like to end a scene, then go right back to the beginning of it (or even before) and rehash it from the other character’s POV—with the same dialogue and interactions and everything!

      Rant over. Moving on.

D.J, who’s supposed to be someone who grew up with emotionally distant parents who sent her off to boarding school as a teenager and then died shortly thereafter (or something), doesn’t come across as emotionally stunted as someone who grew up like that would be. She does have a hard time trusting people (abandonment issues), but then at other times, she’s easy go lucky and just goes with the flow. It’s not a contradiction that works well. And then her reaction to Scott—the Insta-Hate when she first sees him upon arriving in Verdant—is so over the top as to make her almost unlikable.

So the tension between them for the first half or so of the book is the horrid way she treats him because she’s afraid he’s going to remember her from spring break and think . . . something. It’s never really clarified what she’s afraid he’ll think/say about her if he does remember it’s her. After all, he’d also be revealing that, while dating/engaged to his childhood sweetheart, he took off and went to South Padre Island for spring break and had a one-night stand with a girl whose name he never even asked.

There are several flashback scenes taking us back to their spring break encounter (in detail, with considerable repetition from segment to segment—done, I’m sure, to get the “sexy-time” stuff in, since the relationship in the present time doesn’t lend itself to any of that until toward the end of the book). We learn that he bought her a piece of cheap jewelry which he has obsessed over ever since—and why he thinks of her as his “sparkle girl.”

Then there are Viv’s viewpoint scenes which . . . added nothing to the plot or flow of the story. for the most part, they consist of monologues of Viv talking either to D.J.’s dog or to the grave of her late husband. And she’s not even talking about anything that’s important to the story—most of it is either backstory or inanity. Her little subplot turned out to be very weak and unnecessary. She did have a couple of bright spots of eccentricity. But she could have been a fun eccentric without having viewpoint scenes breaking up the (slight) forward momentum of the story.

Oh, did I mention it’s harvest time in Kansas? Readers of this book are treated to multiple looooooonnnnnngggggg discourses on what harvest time is like in a small Kansas town, what the process is, what heavy equipment is used, and so on. Yes, the author apparently did her research and wanted to make sure all of her readers knew she had done her research.

Something that I did quite enjoy about this book are all of the secondary characters in this small town. Some were quite stereotypical and almost directly from The Wizard of Oz (after all, “Emerald City” is mentioned on the first page of the story): the old “witch” of a former librarian who tries to sabotage D.J. at every step; the “cowardly lion” of the older man with autism/asperger’s who hides in the stacks at the library; Suzy, one of the bookmobile drivers (if she only had a brain!); and Amos, the other bookmobile driver, a “Gulf War” vet whom everyone has written off as having given up on romance (if he only had a heart!). So does that make Scott the wizard and Viv Glenda? Not sure on those two.

So, after several encounters with Scott, in which she treats him like gum stuck to the sole of her shoe—including a “date” that both claim isn’t, when Viv asks him to take her out and introduce her around town—D.J. suddenly decides to stop being so hateful to him. And Scott never even reacts to this about-face in her behavior toward him. He’s spent the first part of the book wondering what he did wrong (because, after all, everyone else in town talks about how nice she is, so he must have done something wrong for her to be so horrid toward him, right?), but he never has a single thought about the abrupt change in her attitude toward him.

Next thing you know, bada-bing, bada-boom, they’re making out in his car on the side of the road. And although he’s realized by this time that D.J. reminds him of his “sparkle girl,” and he’s started seeing D.J.’s face in his recurring fantasy about the encounter, he still hasn’t made the connection. And making out doesn’t seem to help him make the connection either. Huh? If it was so memorable that he’s been fantasizing about it for eight years, wouldn’t he be able to put 2 and 2 together?

Okay, I’ll leave it with that rather than give away the rest of the story.

However, I MUST discuss the “end” of the story.

*******SPOILERS*******

After a tragic circumstance that brings about each one’s epiphany moment, when D.J. is having an angsty internal debate as to whether or not to come clean with Scott about their spring break encounter, he finds the piece of jewelry that he bought her the night of their one-night stand (she kept it, all this time!). So, naturally, this is going to lead to a conversation clearing everything up, declarations of love, and maybe even a proposal. Right?

WRONG! The chapter leaves off with Scott looking from the chain to D.J. and then . . . wham—it’s eight years later, and they’re back on the beach with their precious little girls discussing if they want to try for a third child, a boy, or if they’re satisfied with two kids and knowing that they have the best sex in Kansas.

This has to be one of the worst endings to a romance novel I’ve ever read. Sure, I’ve read a few in which the wrong people end up together (multiple-character-arc stories, of course) or in which the ending is so cheesy it made me bilious. And I’ve never made it a secret that I HATE epilogues that are all about the “precious babies” that result from the relationship. But to not even resolve anything? To cut away from the big reveal and what should have been the climax of the plot? This was the point the whole plot was supposed to be building toward. It was all build up and no follow through. And since that’s the last impression the book leaves with the reader, it was a very unfortunate choice.

______________________________________________

My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay/not a favorite
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR/DNF = I hated it and/or Did Not Finish it

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