Actually, I don’t feel so guilty about it. I love romance books. Reading about some fictional character’s happily ever after gives me a bunch of warm and fuzzy feelings. The sex scenes don’t hurt either.
It is true that romance novels, usually, are quite formulaic. Generally it goes something like this:
Step 1: Create a heroine, either a virgin or a widow, who is emotionally damaged in some way.
Step 2: Create a hero, usually a known rake or single father, who does not believe in love.
Step 3: Create a back story that gives the hero and heroine reason hate each other. Alternatively, have the heroine run to the hero to make some sort of bargain.
Step 4: Hero and heroine fight their attraction to one another, unsuccessfully.
Step 5: A misunderstanding or crisis creates drama for the hero and heroine and so they are separated briefly.
Step 6: The make up sex, the end scene, the resolution. Generally they get married or the heroine becomes pregnant. Or both!
One might expect this formula to get old or stereotypical, but it is surprising how each author brings a new flair to the same story. Authors really have no other choice but to break the mold when everything has been done before.
That being said, Where I Belong- the first of the Alabama Summer series- sticks so completely to the formula that it felt like I was reading the same story I’d read a hundred times.
Mia Corelli (I know, for some reason I’m drawn to books with a Mia as the heroine) is a Georgian college girl going back to her childhood home in Alabama for the summer. She’s looking forward to spending the sunny days out by the pool with her childhood best friend, Tessa. She just hopes she can avoid Tessa’s older brother, Ben, who made fun of Mia relentlessly when they were children because of her weight.
But Mia isn’t the fat, ugly duckling anymore. Thanks to her foray into the world of high school and college volleyball, she’s got a great body- and she wants to flaunt it. Tessa promises her she’ll get a bunch of guys while she’s in Alabama, but Mia’s first goal for the summer is losing her virginity.
She goes to a bar with that goal in mind, and it doesn’t take long for her to be noticed by a tall, dark, and handsome man. They don’t know each other’s names, but that suits Mia’s purposes perfectly. Wild, hot sex ensues, and Mia leaves the next morning deflowered and ready for a summer of fun.
Her one-night-stand won’t give up so easily, though. Mia left an impression on him and he is dead set on finding out who this magical woman with the magical vagina is- until his sister calls because she needs him to clean out the pool. What is his sister’s name? Tessa. *Gasps!* Surprise! Mia’s paramour from last night was none other than her childhood tormentor, Ben. Who saw that coming from a mile away? *raises hand*
Needless to say, when Ben goes over to clean the pool he discovers his magical woman next to it. She wants nothing to do with him, so he decides he wants everything to do with her.
We are then brought along on their turbulent love story, as Mia tries to resist Ben because of the jerk he used to be and Ben tries to win Mia’s affections. Along the way we are introduced to a whole cast of characters including Ben’s ex-one-night-stand, who is the unreliable mother to his young son. Add into the mix Tessa’s pregnancy scare, a custody battle, and some cop uniforms and we’ve got ourselves a regular soap opera.
In the end, of course, Mia and Ben get together, Tessa’s not pregnant, and Ben wins custody of his son. Cheers for a happy ending!
Other than the predictable plot line, this book also suffered from flat characterization and poor transitions. For example, Ben’s ex is made out to be this horrible woman but we never get to see another side of her. It was so one-dimensional it hurt to read. We are introduced to new characters so suddenly you have to go back and re-read sections just to make sure you got all the information.
As far as romance novels go, I would not recommend Where I Belong. I’m not holding out much hope for the rest of this series, either.
The book’s one redeeming feature? The cover. Top notch work there, and that is not sarcasm.