August 12, 2015

DNF Review: Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas



Cover description: a brunette, thin woman wearing a a little black dress, partially covers her face with a bouquet.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.

Grade: DNF
Purchase: Amazon
Synopsis:

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


11 comments:

  1. You sum up how I felt about the book. I also thought the romance was underdeveloped and I also noticed the timeline issues. But even though it wasn't as good as the previous books, I enjoyed it and I really hope she does do that spinoff, it seemed to be hinted at!

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    1. The timeline was so weird, right? I even went back and skimmed through STS and BED to see if I was right in finding it odd that Liberty's salon was just about to open and to check on Haven's pregnant status. She's not pregnant at the end of BED or even in STS, which is weird, because we all know that romance heroines have to get pregnant by the time the epilogue comes, but in STS she mentions that they want to start a family right away, so those subplots were part of the original premise and no one bothered to check about inconsistencies. And it could have been so easy to fix, too!

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  2. That original blurb sounds better than what I read, tbh.

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    1. It sounds better and it makes the romance sounds like it would make more sense, or at least be angstier :-/

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  3. That's too bad about the book, Brie. I only read the third book, was never really invested in this series, so I don't feel your pain... but it always sucks to DNF a book. Sometimes I really wonder what pushes the authors to write sequel in series that seem to be over.

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    1. Wait, you don't like this series? You're like a romland maverick! LOL

      I wonder, too, especially in cases where the series seems so long gone, but maybe she was feeling nostalgic or something.

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  4. I listened to the book so my experience is obviously filtered through that medium. Generally, because when I'm listening to an audiobook I'm also doing something else, I find I can enjoy a thinly plotted book better on audio whereas in print I'd be skimming like nobody's business - if the narrator is good. She was - except for a stereotypical performance of Sofia (which I felt was and odd choice but I couldn't tell if it was based on the text or a specific choice by the narrator as I don't have the book to compare. Then again, I gather from your review it's likely not in the text because I think you'd have mentioned it if Sofia was saying "joo" all the time instead of "you". But, there was that bit where Stephen laughed (fondly) at her for saying "payamas" so??)

    I didn't see the original blurb so I don't know what idea one was. The problem for me with BEG was that it wasn't angsty enough. Joe wasn't ever called upon to do anything particularly heroic, so he couldn't hope to live up to Hardy Cates. (Then again, who could? :D) I didn't notice the continuity issues because it's been so long since I read the other books, I'd forgotten those details.

    I wasn't all that bothered by Joe's high-handedness because I knew Avery actually wanted him and it felt pretty typical of romance novel heroes (and I'm more tolerant of asshole heroes than you are!). What I tripped up on the most was why the hell Avery was even a wedding planner? She didn't believe in love. She thought the happy ever after was a crock. Why did she spend so much time talking the scared groom into going through with the wedding? It didn't make sense - I just had to put it down to authorial plot machinations - LK needed a reason to keep the characters apart and there really wasn't a good one - once Joe and Avery were together they fit like... things that fit together really well, so there had to be something or there was no conflict at all.

    FWIW, I did think Avery's reasoning for staying in Houston at the end made sense - included in there was that Avery liked to be her own boss and the interview in NY was a clear indicator that if she hosted the wedding reality show she'd be told what to do and how to behave to play up to the producers' whims. That's not who she wanted to be - that definitely made her decision easier.

    I think I'd have given it about a C/C+ if I'd read it because I thought it was mostly harmless but on audio, I was a little more forgiving and went with a B- for content.

    Thus sayeth me :P

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    1. The “payamas” joke was in the book, but I don’t remember her having a strong accent (maybe I forgot about it for self-preservation, but I should go and check my copy to make sure).

      I link to the original blurb in the review, but basically, the whole book took place right after Joe’s accident while he’s recovering in the hospital and Avery’s dad is dying, so I guess they connected then. There are a lot of comments about that time in the final version, so you kind of see the bones there. Plus, the timeline with the Joe’s family matches better that original idea.

      I agree that there was low conflict/emotion, and that Joe didn’t have much to do other than pester Avery (not quite what you said, but kind of the truth *grins*) and Avery being a wedding planner made no sense! Why not make her a regular event planner? If the story needed an excuse for her to stick around Joe, why not ask her to do the wedding for sequel-bait hero dude as a special event? Ugh!

      I didn’t read the ending, but I’m glad it wasn’t infuriatingly bad ;-)

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    2. Inorite? Why on earth would she become a wedding planner?? In the end, I decided that the fact that she was a wedding planner meant that her stated hatred of HEA was completely bogus. I think that probably contributed to my tolerance for Joe's high-handedness.

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  5. Wow, that blurb *is* completely different isn't it? And clearly, her dad was a totally different character then too. Wow.

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    1. I KNOW! LOL I kind of want to read that book now.

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