Update 2: Spoilers ahead. They don't ruin the book, but do give away one big plot development.
Source: a review copy was provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.
As you guys know, I’m a fan of Ms. O’Keefe’s books and I really liked her single title debut, Can’t Buy Me Love. I was apprehensive about the second book, which turned out to be just as good. So now we’re here with the conclusion of the series, and a new take on romance, relationships and old genre tropes.
Crazy Thing Called Love is about second chances; not only at love, but in life, family and work. It’s the story of Maddy and Billy -- high school sweethearts who married very young and got divorced almost immediately, not because they didn't love each other, but because they weren't mature enough to deal with what life put in their way, in this case, fame and glory.
But just as life drove them apart, it brings them back together when his increasing violence in a sport that’s pretty violent to begin with puts his career in jeopardy and forces him to change. And what better way to change than on national TV, right? Maddy, who transformed her life, body and goals after their marriage ended, is the host of the show where Billy will get his makeover.
This book was different than I expected, and it’s almost a twofer. There is a lot going on, and the only thing that prevents it from being a mess is Ms. O'Keefe talent. Interestingly, this is the only story in the trilogy that doesn't have a “difficult” heroine, yet it’s the one I’m not sure how well it will go with the readers. Once the book hits the middle mark, the conflict and plot radically changes, and the transition isn't smooth. It stops being about a couple to become a book about a family, a very dysfunctional one, but a family nonetheless. And we get introduced to two kids that aren't exactly plot moppets, but are quite close. But it works, because the kids weren't charming, which makes them a complication and not a convenient solution, and instead of lightening the plot, they make it darker. I’m being vague, because I don’t want to further spoil the plot, but keep in mind that there’s a surprise in the middle of the book, and it comes in the form of children.
There are many reasons why I loved Maddy and Billy’s love story, the main one being a realistic depiction of young love. I know that people get married young and manage to live happily ever after, but it is the type of relationship I have the most trouble believing in. And so, this book felt like a nice compromise: they fall in love as teenagers and get married, but they don’t make it the first time around and it takes years for them to reach the right place in their lives to live happily ever after. There is a lot of love between them, both as teens and as adults, but there’s also a lot of pain, hurt and mistakes. And it takes a lot of confidence on his end, and blind faith on hers, to take that first step towards reconciliation.
The road isn't easy, and it includes the ever present sex scene that has no place being there. I understand that sex is a way to portray desire and love in a way some characters can’t articulate early on in their journey, but I’m a fan of communication, and the body expressing what the mind can’t is not the right place to start a reconciliation story.
I also felt like Billie’s issues with violence weren't properly addressed, and that the subplot involving the kids was a bit intrusive. However, as much as it looks like the plot is filled with genre conventions and clichés, Ms. O'Keefe resolves them in ways that are innovative and refreshing. Billy doesn't change because of the kids, or even because of Maddy. He takes an honest look at his life and decides that things must change. Yes, the kids shift the focus to themselves, but they also mirror Billy’s own childhood giving him yet another second chance at redemption and life. It works and it fits, because there’s nothing predictable about the characters and the way they deal with the situation. And that could be said about the previous books as well.
I've talked about sport romances before and how they feel stale and repetitive because no one is bothering to use the sport life as more than an excuse to have a rich, built hero. And this series is proof that it’s possible to tell a more realistic story without sacrificing the elements that make sport romances so appealing. Sports, and the way society views professional athletes, is a rich source of interesting stories and conflicts, and Ms. O'Keefe does a great job illustrating that.
In Crazy Thing Called Love we get to see not only a couple giving their relationship a second opportunity, but also how their marriage and friendship deteriorated when the sport player hero found unexpected fame and glory at a very young age. It is perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of the book, because we see soul mates hurting each other as well as themselves, and it’s impossible to do anything about it. This is a romance novel, and as such we’re guaranteed a happy ending, but the experience irrevocably changed them as individuals, and although they become better versions of themselves, the reunion is bittersweet and filled with memories and experiences that never were.
It’s a great culmination to a fantastic series, and it gives me hope that more contemporary romance authors will take chances with characters that force us to take closer looks at them in order to, if not like them, at least understand and enjoy their journey.
Review by Brie
In this poignant and deeply sensual new contemporary romance—perfect for readers of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson—Molly O’Keefe proves that lost loves don’t have to stay lost forever.
Dallas TV morning show host Madelyn Cornish is poised, perfect, and unflappable, from her glossy smile to her sleek professionalism. No one knows that her iron will guards a shattered heart and memories of a man she’s determined to lock out. Until that man shows up at a morning meeting like a bad dream: Billy Wilkins, sexy hockey superstar in a tailspin—still skating, still fighting, and still her ex-husband.
Now the producers want this poster child for bad behavior to undergo an on-air makeover, and Billy, who has nothing to lose, agrees to the project. It’s his only chance to get near Maddy again, and to fight for the right things this time around. He believes in the fire in Maddy’s whiskey eyes and the passion that ignites the air between them. This bad-boy heartbreaker wants a last shot to be redeemed by the only thing that matters: Maddy’s love.
Crazy Thing Called Love by Molly O’Keefe
Bantam. January 29, 2013