Reviewed: October 8, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Southern Roads, Book 3
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 384 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle, Nook
Release Date: 11/15/11 (P), 12/1/11 (K)
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Mira Books publisher Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
She works as a reporter for a militant feminist magazine, so when Alicia Randall finds out about the town of Sweetness, GA, she's practically salivating over its potential as an investigative reporter's gold mine. Sweetness had been wiped off the map a decade ago when a deadly F5 tornado steamrolled the place. Now three brothers, all former residents, are dedicated to working together to organize the rebuilding and make a completely advanced green town, environmentally friendly in every way.
Alicia finds it hard to appreciate the nobility of the effort given the brothers' unconventional actions. Apparently starved for female residents, they took out an ad in a northern newspaper, an ad written to entice single women to join some sort of estrogen-induced migration and settle in the man-rich town of Sweetness as it's being rebuilt. It's positively barbaric!
Full of righteous indignation on behalf of women everywhere, Alicia sweeps out of NYC and into Sweetness, GA. Armed with little more than her ideals and her disdain for Sweetness in general and the Armstrong brothers in particular, she goes undercover as a new resident, determined to unearth all the dirty little secrets of the town - and the brothers - and take them national.
Alicia wasn't anticipating the full scope of the culture shock. She wasn't expecting such a provincial existence. She certainly wasn't expecting the Armstrong's eldest brother, Marcus, who is definitely the man in charge of Sweetness and its rebuilding. Still, Alicia clings tightly to her militant feminism as she surreptitiously investigates the goings on in Sweetness, though her grip gets a little looser every time she and woman-weary Marcus lock horns or butt heads - which seems to happen with dismaying frequency.
Soon it's all Alicia can do to get to the heart of Sweetness without losing her own. Her career is riding on it, her life in New York is riding on it, and absolutely without one doubt, her future is riding on it.
I was a little leery when I started this book. I'm a firm believer in equal rights for...well...everyone, really, but militant anything - including feminism - makes me itchy, especially when it appears to be little more than excuse for man hating and fear of being hurt. That's not my idea of an ideological or sociopolitical platform. Sure, I'll joke about men being the weaker species (they so are, poor dears), but I'm not real keen on turning the battle of the sexes into bloody warfare, either.
That made reading a book with a main character who uses militant feminism as both a sword to skewer anyone, male or female, who isn't living according to her own "ideals" and a shield to protect herself from risking her heart on a relationship that could end in pain a chore. And when it became clear that a large part of her feminism was rooted in the wounds she got as the child of divorced and frequently remarried parents, she also seemed a bit of a poser. Alicia was far too self-righteous, judgmental, and elitist to be sympathetic or even likable. And while part of the plot was obviously her slow evolution into a kinder, gentler feminista fascist, it didn't happen soon enough in the story to redeem her in my eyes.
With that unfortunate truth, the rest of the book wasn't able to offer enough entertainment to raise my opinion any higher than average. The plot was still pleasant, though predictable and formulaic, and the other characters were perfectly fine. I enjoyed Marcus quite a lot, actually, and frankly felt he deserved better than the deceitful and snobbish Alicia. His brothers made me chuckle, too - they were sort of like overgrown puppies the way they yapped at and harried Marcus for every little thing.
Maybe I'm viewing the book through too harsh a lens. I've read other books by Bond and know that she writes more towards the light, fluffy, and sexy end of the romance spectrum, and I know that this book was intended to be similar in tone. My problems with the lead character, however, made me tone deaf, and the rest just wasn't quite enough to truly entertain me when balanced against her.
That's not to say the book didn't have it's fun, flirty, sexy, and sweet moments. It absolutely did, and for all that Alicia annoyed me throughout the majority of the book, at the end she had become a far more likable character. The book ended on a high note, and I was particularly enamored with the epilogue. Those points in the book's favor at least saved it from the two star rating of a disappointing read.
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