Dear Ms. Stuart:
It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter. I enjoy your blog. I enjoy your comments. Yours was a book that was recommended in the contest by several people so I know you can be reassured that that you have fans of your work. A book that starts in the middle of the series always has challenges but it is my belief that each book of a series must stand on its own.
Ironically, when the story began, I recall drafting a letter in my head about this type of story exemplified the best in small publisher’s: content not found in mainstream publications. It began with a first person account of the life of a successful salon owner who hasn’t quite made it out of her small, hometown where she enjoys the infamous reputation of being the daughter of the town drunk and being a bit free with her favors. Betti Blanchard’s voice is breezy, no nonsense, and full of southern charm. She was the type of woman who went for what she wanted, instead of waiting for it to come to her.
Chapter Two is the start of a new narrator’s voice, Ty Boudreaux. Betti loved Ty from childhood because of a chilvarous action that Ty took on her behalf. This part of the story is told in the third person and has a markedly different tone. While Bettina is an easy going, fun loving extrovert, Ty is her polar opposite. Self described as shy, reserved, and emotionally damaged, Ty’s voice is darker and more solemn. Ty suffered during a long marriage with his childhood sweetheart to the extent that he has panic attacks and must medicate at time.
This was a fascinating setup but it didn’t deliver for me. Once Ty’s family was introduced, the pages became clogged with characters that served no purpose but seemingly advanced their own separate books. Ty had a number of brothers: Zack, Zander, and Tim (not exactly a brother but raised as one). There was also a daughter that was a result of his father’s infidelity. There were wives, children, aunts and others who graced the pages of the book and were given attention.
The family dynamic had nothing to do with Ty’s emotional illness but many pages were spent focusing on it. There were even internal monologues by the various family members that had nothing to do with Ty and Bettina or any secondary romance. The not so secret family problems and the focus on them detracted from the overall story. There was a culmination of a storyline that obviously took place somewhere else. I had a similar problem with Ty’s ex-wife’s appearances. Other than to show that she was a needy user, they didn’t seem to advance the plot.
Despite having had been in a difficult romance and reluctant to be the aggressor in any stage of a relationship, you often have Ty making the first physical and sexual moves. This was not consistent with his state of mind. Bettina, despite her handle over her life, her desire for control, often seemed like a hapless emotional who ended many chapters in tears. I didn’t quite understand how Ty made a living. He was wealthy enough to have savings to buy an antique 2 carat diamond ring and own four bedroom house but then suddenly he couldn’t afford baby clothes and baby furniture. Why would a man who could save enough to afford a 2 carat ring decide to blow it all when he had a child on the way? The final kicker was the ending when I found out that Tim was the one who had actually done the chivalrous action that Bettina had so admired in Ty when they were children. Maybe Betti was with the wrong brother.
At the end of the story, I wondered, if I went through and took out all of the pages that were told in the third person, what kind of book there would be. I suspect it would have been much tighter of a story instead of one that meandered from one person to another without threads of conection (other than family ties). C- for you.