I really liked all three Travis books, but I was never invested in a potential Joe story, because I always got the impression that Ms. Kleypas had no interest in writing it. That didn’t stop me from being really excited when the new book was announced, however. In fact, I was so excited that I was honestly taken by surprise by how half-assed and under-baked this book felt and by how poorly it fits a series that was filled with larger-than-life characters and delicious angst.
Avery, our heroine, is very good at her job as a wedding planner, but emotionally scarred by an irresponsible, philandering father and a failed relationship with her ex. At a wedding where she’s busy doing her job, she meets hunky, yet tender Joe Travis. He pesters her throughout until they have what she believes (and wishes) to be a one-night stand. But Joe, whose main character trait is knowing best, decides that he wants her and proceeds to spend half the book relentlessly and inexplicably pursuing her. She gives in, he introduces her to his family, she’s super insecure so there are a lot of mixed signals indecision on her part, and… I didn’t read the last 15% of the book, but I bet something external happens to make her realize that what she really wants and needs is Joe. I know this because the previous book had a romantic conflict that resolved itself by a shoehorned external circumstance instead of actual communication, so why expect something different here? Also, the event that forces Avery’s hand is set up early on in the book.
She has body-image issues and a bit of self-loathing going on, which in theory sounds interesting, but without nuance and care all we have left is the good-old romance trope of the heroine who believes she’s fat, but learns she’s actually curvy and hot thanks to a makeover. Avery is to plus-size heroines what Robyn Lawley is to plus-size models. It’s also important to mention that this book is written in 1st person and told entirely from her POV, which makes her superficial characterization all the more infuriating and unacceptable.
Joe would like you to know that he wants to settle down and be a loving, caring romance hero. If he has to throw you into a pool and ignore your wishes, it’s only because he knows what you want and need better than you do. He says stuff like this:
“Now it’s my turn to talk.” The sound of his voice in my ear was pure sin. “I’m the guy who’s right for you. I may not be what you’re looking for, but I’m what you want. You’ve been alone long enough, honey. It’s time for you to wake up with a man in your bed. Time for the kind of sex that lays you out, owns you, leaves you too shaky to pour your morning coffee.”
Which I’m sure sounds swoony to most, but I thought it was condescending as fuck. He kept calling her "honey" in a way that made me think next he would pat her on the head and tell her she’s a good girl, but not in a fun kinky way.
But how can you expect more from a book that reads like a first draft? Okay, I confess I'm being unfair, because this must be at least the second draft, given that the original blurb was completely different from what we ended up getting. You can actually see the ghost of drafts past buried in this story, not to mention that the not-quite-right timeline makes the book sound like it’s trying to decide whether it takes place right after the previous book ended or a bunch of years after.
There’s a romantic subplot between Avery’s sister and one of their coworkers, which I though was more engaging, but it’s just a sub-plot. There’s also a sequel-bait male character that makes me wonder if, five years from now, we’ll be reading his book. When and if that happens, I'll be reading it for sure, because, well, Lisa Kleypas.
Wedding planner Avery Crosslin may be a rising star in Houston society, but she doesn't believe in love-at least not for herself. When she meets wealthy bachelor Joe Travis and mistakes him for a wedding photographer, she has no intention of letting him sweep her off her feet. But Joe is a man who goes after what he wants, and Avery can't resist the temptation of a sexy southern charmer and a hot summer evening.
After a one night stand, however, Avery is determined to keep it from happening again. A man like Joe can only mean trouble for a woman like her, and she can't afford distractions. She's been hired to plan the wedding of the year-a make-or-break event.
But complications start piling up fast, putting the wedding in jeopardy, especially when shocking secrets of the bride come to light. And as Joe makes it clear that he's not going to give up easily, Avery is forced to confront the insecurities and beliefs that stem from a past she would do anything to forget.
The situation reaches a breaking point, and Avery faces the toughest choice of her life. Only by putting her career on the line and risking everything-including her well-guarded heart-will she find out what matters most.
Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin's Press. August 11, 2015