You go to the bookstore in search of a contemporary romance read. A solid, straightforward romance read. Not erotica or erotic romance. No suspense or mystery. No vampires, werewolves or other evidence of paranormal. Sounds easy in theory. Reality is the problem.
Oh, books of this type are on the shelves. You just have to dig through all of the book with photos of vampires, witches and mostly naked people on the bindings first. And when you find that non-historical, non-erotica, non-paranormal romance you face an even bigger issue – will it hold your attention. The question is, without the worldbuilding necessary for paranormal romance, without a dead body or missing something, will this newly purchased contemporary romance keep you turning all 400 pages. Authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich and Meg Cabot craft novels where the pacing, plot and character development all work together with success. Others don’t.
This is a don’t.
Between a thirty-eight word opening sentence and a contrived too-happy ending, Everything’s Coming Up Rosie centers on a week-long wedding celebration. This party is the type eccentric, wealthy people throw and attend. Unfortunately, eccentric and wealthy doesn’t always mean interesting. Eccentric and wealthy aren’t always enough to carry a minimal plot through to the end.
Flirty and charming party attendee Rosie Kilgannon starts the show rolling in true wealthy and eccentric style. She plants a kiss on a complete stranger as a way of getting out of the matchmaking plans and stifling seating charts concocted by mother-of-the-bride Bettie. Recipient of the lip smack is Doug Llewellyn, forty-year-old architect playboy and second cousin to bride Lili-Beth. Doug’s rules of dating start with “no commitment” and end with an age limit. Young and fun is his motto. Then Rosie flies into his arms, kisses him and wrecks his bachelor ways. If it sounds too simple, there’s a reason for that. It is.
Rosie and Doug team up to avoid Bettie’s planned pairings with other people. These “others” are obnoxious divorced people who can’t be paired with each other, so they’re paired with the two confirmed singles – Rosie and Doug. A mutual attraction and love of the dating game is not all that bonds Rosie and Doug together. They share a common sense of humor and carefree existence. At Rosie’s instigation, they team up to stop Lili-Beth’s wedding to Rob Hemmings, the groom Lili-Beth’s parents purchased for her.
And that’s the plot. A few side items simmer in the background but don’t spend much time onstage. For example, Rosie and Doug’s original pairings, the divorced couple, show at the beginning and then again at the very end in a way that shouts unrealistic Hollywood Happy Ending. There is little to point to in terms of depth on either the side items or the main love story. Part of the problem is that many of the circumstances are telegraphed from the beginning. You take an outside wedding, hold it under a tent on a manicured lawn and add in a hurricane. Where the plot will go with those facts is not exactly a mystery. Neither is the ending. It comes fast and what little there is to reveal is told to the reader during a conversation that basically goes: “I just talked to X and found out…” No true dark moment. No time when the reader wonders what comes next or if Rosie and Doug will somehow get together. Everything is a foregone conclusion here.
The first hundred plus pages deal with Day One of the week-long party. The time limit can work if the story pushes forward. If the characters grow and change. If there is an underlying pulse and energy. If there’s…something. Here, the thin action flattens everything surrounding Rosie and Doug. A tired plot that lacks the steam to propel it forward is further hampered by secondary characters who follow clear and stereotypical paths. Groom Rob is a jerk with something to hide. Bride Lili-Beth is weak and in love with someone other than Rob, but too afraid of disappointing her domineering mother to speak up. Mother Bettie is rich and snotty and entitled and confused in her priorities. Father George is distant and seemingly out of touch. Wedding planner Antoinette is on the verge of a breakdown.
Through all of that, Rosie and Doug manage dialog that is, at times, very clever and smart. The early banter has a tendency to feel forced. But when the conversation settles into a steady beat, the back and forth takes off. As they grow more comfortable with each other, their chatter takes on a cadence that carries the middle portion of the book and overcomes many of the book’s weaknesses. The conversation sparkles, but the romance lacks sizzle because nothing appears to be standing in the way of these two people getting together.
Rosie and Doug work as a couple on many levels. They are fun and funny. Likeable and readable. They both shun commitment. It’s not enough. Uneven pacing, a thin plot, initial stops and starts in dialog, and an ending that goes one step too far keep the book from being memorable despite the compelling interplay between Doug and Rosie.
At heart, Everything’s Coming Up Rosie is a straightforward contemporary romance but an uneven one. That could explain why all those books in the romance section include vampires, witches and mysteries. The extra something may just fill in those empty spaces and even everything out.
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