Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Big Girls Don't Cry by Brenda Novak

A two Haiku review!

Warning: I was unsure how to write this review. Part of me feels like I'm giving away the big secret. But there's no way around it, because that's what I both liked and disliked about the book. And the "secret" is revealed early on and is what pushes the whole plot. Here is the slightly misleading back blurb from the book:

Sometimes Mr. Right couldn't be more wrong...

Thanks to a devastating revelation about her husband, Reenie Holbrook's once-perfect marriage is over. For eleven years she had the life she wanted--and now it's gone.

Sometimes Mr. Wrong couldn't be more right...

Reenie decides that the first step in recovering from her ordeal is to find work; after all, she has three young children to support. She's thrilled when she lands a job at Dundee High teaching math--until Isaac Russell, the man who triggered the unraveling of her marriage, accepts a temporary position teaching science. Then she's tempted to quit. Reenie doesn't care if the whole town admires Isacc...and she won't admit that, secretly, she admires him, too. She doesn't want to see him or his sister in "her" town.

But a friendship with the most unlikely woman leads to a relationship with the most unlikely man...

If you are intrigued but don't want to know what's going to happen, don't click on the cut.

One man with two wives,
Wife two's brother finds out
and tells all the truth.

Reenie recovers,
but Isaac makes things tougher,
Intense, slow romance.

Comments from the peanut gallery:

This was an intriguing read. I devoured it in a matter of hours. Often in romances, the traumatic events have already taken place, but in Big Girls Don't Cry, we find out what's been happening along with the hero and heroine. It was very immediate and engrossing, but it also weakened the story a bit, for reasons I will explain.

Keith O'Connell lives with his wife of 11 years, Reenie (his HS sweetheart), and their three children in Dundee, Idaho. He also lives with his wife of 9 years, Liz, and their two children in L.A. His job as a software developer has him travelling between both places, and he has used both women's trust to great advantage over the past nine years. However, when Liz's brother Isaac becomes suspicious, he follows Keith to Idaho and uncovers the truth. After meeting the charming Reenie, he is unsure of what to do, but these things take on a life of their own and so the truth is revealed. The two women have to deal with a totally awful betrayal, while protecting their children. Keith abandons family #2, to try to get Reenie (whom he has always loved more) to take him back. Stung, and hurt for her children, Liz moves to Dundee to make him acknowledge his family and stay in his kids' lives. Loyal brother Isaac goes along to help. Now everyone's together in this small town. Can you say AWKWARD? Things only get more complicated when Isaac and Reenie grow increasingly attracted to each other.

This read more like women's fiction to me (but I'm not positive because I haven't read too much women's fiction). A lot of the book was focused on the big reveal, and everyone's reaction and recovery from it. I really liked the characters. They were well drawn, strong and had mixed and different reactions. But Reenie, Liz, and Isaac seemed human, never contrived or petty. That was some heavy shit to be dealing with. Keith, OTOH, was such a selfish, immature asswipe, it was hard to see why both women had loved him so much. But he was a bigamist, so I wasn't expecting to like him anyway.

The problem for me was that the book was so much about the fallout and recovery from the Keith betrayal, that the Reenie-Isaac romance felt a bit rushed. I was getting impatient for it to actually start. There was chemistry between them from the get go, but I would've liked a bit more focus on the relationship development and the sparks between them. Also, Reenie, had been totally in love with Keith prior to finding out the truth. Now, of course, I wouldn't expect her to remain that way, given the situation. But it made something like her telling Isaac that it was the best sex ever, ring a little hollow, given that she was shown to be sexually satisfied with Keith at the beginning. Overall, a moving and interesting read, but I'm giving it a B-, because I wanted more romance. I went to Brenda Novak's website , and I'm very interested in some of her other Superromances, especially the ones that take place in Dundee. She's got some unusual premises going on there. I hope the focus is on the advertised love story.