I don’t write book reviews. I don’t have the patience for it; I don’t like trying to explain my opinion while simultaneously explaining that just because I don’t like it (or do) that you may not have the same opinion. I’m always frightened of offending someone and so I try not to talk about matters of taste.
However, this book is so god-awful terrible, so ripe with cliche, so stinkified and stupid that I feel quite capable of breaking out of my shell and discussing it in concrete terms.
Love, Suburban Style, by Wendy Markham is basically a litany of what not to do when writing for any genre but particularly romance. The idea was quite good (which is why I picked it up at B&N): a Broadway actress, wearying of city life with her fifteen year old daughter, decides to move back to her hometown. Of course, her hometown is not the idyll she imagines it: all the shops have gone upscale; suburban moms drive Hummers, and the price of real estate is out of this world. So far so good, right? Sort of a fish out of water story, or a cute story about going home again.
Astor Hudson erases her stage name and reverts to Meg Addams. Why this change of name, I don’t know. It’s clumsily handled in the book and I got the feeling mid-way through that Markham just could not decide if her primary character’s name was Meg or Astor. So split the baby, why not.
So Meg Addams and her daughter, Cossette, move into the town’s “haunted house”. Okay, at this point I’m a little disappointed at the deus ex machina but whatevs. I can deal. What I can’t deal with is the fact that it’s right next door to her high school sweetheart, whom she has longed for lo these many years. And he, Sam Rooney, doesn’t even recognize Meg Addams/Astor Hudson. Throughout the whole book he has nary a twinge of memory of the girl who was basically stalking him in high school. But okay, again, whatevs. I’m not happy about it, but it’s not my book.
Sam Rooney always longed for a “real connection” with his wife, but was unfortunate enough to marry a woman who was just his best friend. No sex chemistry (even though they had two children together) but it was a happy, sustainable union until she dies in a car crash. Now Rooney refuses to date because his children might get hurt if it doesn’t work out for the long time.
Suck on that a while. The children are dealing with a dead mother and he’s worried ‘they could get hurt.’
Again, you have to just accept that this is how the author chose to write her book. You have to believe that there is some really good plan for this mess of cliches.
Rooney’s son, Ben, quickly becomes involved with Cossette while Meg and Sam are indulging in guilty interludes. The haunted house is enough to send Meg running next door to Sam Rooney, who feels for her what he could not feel with his wife but who, as stated, has sealed his heart.
So they just pine. And fuck a little. But tell themselves, in excruciating detail, why they cannot be together. Markham literally writes the internal tics, which tells me she’s not doing a good enough job with the bigger stuff. For instance, she will literally write out:
…think about that instead of kissing him. What did he say again? Oh yes, he teaches physics…
It is absolutely tedious.
Finally a ridiculous mixup that would never happen in a million years brings us to the climax: a letter that Meg wrote to Sam when she was in high school is found by the new owners of the house she used to live in. The letter is accidentally dropped right in front of Sam. Sam doesn’t realize that Meg wrote it years ago (shows you this woman’s maturity level) and so he goes to meet her in the auditorium, as she requested in the note. Of course, Meg also shows up because of some contrived bullshit reason, and they confess their love and live happily ever after.
Oh and the reason they got together is because of the ghost of Sam’s dead wife who is haunting not her own house where her children and husband lie sleeping, but the house NEXT DOOR (which, by the way, was haunted even in high school – before the wifey died in a car crash.) And the ghost urged her to be with Sam.
So at the end, Meg sells the haunted house and moves into Sam’s house. Cossette and Ben are no longer making out. And everybody’s happy.
Everybody except me. I’m furious, having spent money on this overblown piece of crap.