Friday, January 29, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'Prescription for Romance'

Just a quick note before the review: I've added a list of my favorite links to the side of the page. I've mentioned a couple of them in the context of my reviews before. I just wanted to add that I asked the lovely Laurel Ann over at Austenprose if she could link to my blog if I linked to hers, and she very nicely put me in the "Lit Links" sidebar over there! I'm quite pleased to give back to the Janeite community! Onto the review.

The Book: Prescription for Romance (book one in the "The Baby Chase" miniseries)

The Author: Marie Ferrarella

How I Found It: Browsing eHarlequin's website and finding that this particular miniseries dealt with a fertility institute made me curious. One of the stories I'm currently writing involves a couple's struggle with it, so I wanted to read something about the inner workings of a facility like that.

The Review: I have to say, out of my (admittedly brief) experience with the category romances, this is definitely the one I liked the least. Out of five stars, I'd say this one gets maybe two. It was a decent way to pass two of my shifts at work (in total, it probably took me about three and a half, four hours to read), but that's about all it was. I do want to continue reading the miniseries to see resolution of the plotlines introduced here, but I'm not sold on this particular author.

This is a single-plot book, for the most part. To give the gist of it: Paul Armstrong runs a well-renowned, family-owned institute that gives couples with seemingly no chance to have a child one last ray of hope. He is the chief of staff; his twin brother Derek is the chief financial officer; his sister Lisa is the administrator; and another sister, Olivia, has tried conceiving with her Senator husband for five years without success.

The conflict begins when Paul is informed that Derek has hired a PR consultant to help reform the institute's image. Recently, a series of damning news stories has put the clinic in jeopardy, as accusations of wrongful practices are thrown about. Derek is convinced a public relations person will be able to help smooth the damage over. After meeting the woman, Paul is reluctantly forced to agree.

The problem is, Ramona is not the PR person she claims to be. In fact, her working for the institute has two reasons: one, she is an undercover reporter hoping to gain information on the supposed practices of the institute, and two, her mother, who donated eggs years ago, is dying of leukemia and Ramona wishes to see if she has any siblings who could be the match for her mother that she is not.

And... that's about all there is. Two subplots come up that will presumably be addressed in future books. One definitely will, as Olivia's potential infertility is the plot of the second book in the miniseries. The other, Derek's involvement in shady business practices and gambling, could be a potential future book, but then again, it could only be a throwaway subplot for the next book.

Okay. To get started on why I didn't like the book: let me count the ways.

First, the characters were completely flat. I'm talking little to no character development AT ALL, beyond Paul having a crappy childhood and Ramona having a nice one with her single mom. And Ramona was a complete freaking Mary Sue to the point it was annoying the heck out of me. Some particularly egregious examples:

- The numerous mentions of her smile bringing sunshine to or lighting up a room. Seriously? How did this get past an editor? Come up with something more original, please.

- She has a "near-genius IQ" and "had never gone through an ugly-duckling stage and had been a swan from the moment she entered into the world." (Good God, the second sentence...)

- "She knew that she could be all but irresistible if she wanted to be." (Someone's just a tad conceited...)

- "... the sway of her hips was something to behold. It was enough to even make a man believe in Santa Claus." (I can't snark this; I think the ridiculousness is evident on its own.)

Seriously, Ramona has no flaws. Or depth, for that matter. Oooh, she cares about her mother. Wow. Most people do, I'd hope. Plus, the whole "heir and a spare" thing is getting hackneyed ever since I read My Sister's Keeper at least four years ago. I know that wasn't her mom's intention, but still, the idea that Ramona could just randomly approach a person and go, "Oh, hi, give my mother a bone marrow transplant" is jarring.

The second reason I didn't like the book: the attraction between Paul and Ramona was just not believable. Seriously, Paul's liking of her amounts to "she's hot and she has a good relationship with her mom that I never had with my parents." That is all we get-- the rest of their developing relationship is completely skipped over for length reasons, one assumes. It literally takes the author locking them into a reformed bank vault in order for them to get it on, which brought to mind numerous trapped-in-a-freezer episodes of sitcoms and made me go, "Really? REALLY?"

Third, the narration felt awkward. It is third person omniscient and we can spend a scene comfortably within one character's thoughts for a few pages, only to suddenly switch to another character's the next paragraph and a third character's the next. I'm a fan of switching only after scene breaks or new chapters when in the third person omniscient, so I hated how jerky the writing felt. The author did it solely so the other character wouldn't have to interpret another's emotions.

Basically, this book didn't do it for me. I really want to see what the next book will be like, because it will hopefully give me what I was looking for: a view of a couple whose relationship is threatened by the inability to conceive a child. For a miniseries entitled "The Baby Chase", this first book had NOTHING to do with babies-- the only thing that could possibly, obliquely tie the plot to the miniseries title is Ramona's search for a bone marrow match for her mom, and even then, the child is presumably older than her and no longer a baby.

Only recommended to fans of the author, people who want to read the full miniseries, or people who want to see an example of a Mary Sueish heroine in published fiction. Yay.

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