Manhattan journalist Michelle Michaels just can’t seem to get a break when she finds herself the subject of false rumors. Now she’s being blindsided by her own boss. Wrongly suspecting her of trading sex for scoops, he’s caved in to the shady newsroom gossip and sent Michelle quietly packing on a leave of absence to her hometown of Detroit where some family secrets still lurk. With a career on the DL and a love life at low-ebb, Michelle’s hit rock bottom-until she meets dark, dimpled, and delicious Wesley Abbott…
Detroit reporter Wesley Abbott’s plate is full investigating a corrupt local judge. Now he’s got something else to investigate-and she’s the sweetest thing to sashay into the Herald in years. But Michelle and Wesley have more in common than they ever imagined, and it’s not just mellow vibes. In fact, it’s a scandal! And when these two bodies bump, so does trouble-with a capital T…
Wendy: There’s nothing more disappointing than plucking a novel from the romance section then struggling through 200 pages looking for the romance itself. In Reon Laudat’s If You Just Say Yes, this issue is personified not for lack of trying, but for lack of execution – this novel is disappointing in a harmless way: it doesn’t bother to offend or incite, rather, it fails to deliver any excitement at all. Some books simply do not work because the author isn’t up to the task, buries her story in meaningless minutia and forgets that the reader – or at least this one – is settled in for the chase, the affair and not never-ending back story for characters as important to the novel as the font face.
Michelle Michaels is a journalist for the Manhattan Business Journal until her ethical standards and journalistic integrity are called into question. After the false accusations of the wife of an exposé subject send Michelle back home to Detroit, Michelle finds herself in the sights of fellow journalist and slick lady’s man Wesley Abbott.
Michelle and Wes could be engaging characters; they are both driven, obsessively ambitious, clear eyed, strong where others are weak, smart, and at times witty, but unfortunately they lack the humanizing flaws that would make them truly compelling and relatable. The story’s engine of missteps and mistakes that drive the conflict and propel the action forward are the failings of other characters and never the hero or the heroine’s.
Theirs could have been a persuasive love story. Together they hit high points of flirtatious sass but unfortunately they spend the bulk of the novel apart, mired in disjointed and unconnected subplots. Had they more time together perhaps the foundation for the love they profess at the novel’s end could have been laid. But as is, their quick jump from lust to love is unconvincing and rings hollow.
The novel’s pacing labors under multiple subplot setups that simply do not payoff, or for which the payoff is not equal to the setup investment. A sharper focus on any one of the plot points (Michelle’s tarnished reputation, her mother’s mental illness, Wes’s brother’s incarceration, or courtroom corruption) could have made the story line come to life and offer a rich read.
Ultimately, the trouble with If You Just Say Yes is that the work leaves no stone unturned, no door opened, yet not closed. Each and every character presented—no matter the brevity of their appearance or the lack of their importance—is given detailed back story. That’s fine if the style and goal is to be Dickensonian in scope and feel, which is why John Irving and Richard Russo are able to pull it off without seeming pretentious. In a novel like this, however, the aims are different and therefore the characterization must be as well. Finally, If You Just Say Yes fails to be compelling because it’s a romance wherein the central focus is not the love story.
HelenKay: When Michelle, a journalist for the Manhattan Business Journal, takes one too many steps out of line and ends up in an ethical tangle, the higher-ups at work send her to a sister paper in the far off land of Detroit. She views this as a punishment but Detroit happens to be her hometown. Enter her troubled mother and all the problems associated with returning to the fold. The trip home also puts her right in the path of Wes, a fellow journalist with a player reputation with the skills to match.
If You Just Say Yes is a story about two strong, willful and successful career people, neither of whom know or understand the concept of balance. They run head down, as fast as they can, from one problem to another all while trying to navigate their growing feelings for each other.
The book is part comedy, part suspense and part family drama. There are various subplots, including Michelle’s mother, Michelle’s father, Wes’ brother, Wes’ extended family, work issues and judicial corruption. Laudat takes on an enormous number of issues in approximately 300 pages, trying to weave them together and never fully meshing all of the ideas into a coherent mix of romance and suspense.
Laudat writes with an easy style. She is at times witty and at other times far more serious, handling both ends of the writing spectrum with relative ease. She creates characters who are believable and real in their imperfections. For example, Michelle suffers a severe career downturn due, in part, to her misguided choices and lack of self-awareness. Rather than wallow in the unfairness of life, Michelle pushes forward. She takes responsibility for her actions and moves on. Wes is a ladies’ man with a competitive journalistic soul. He doesn’t apologize for who he is or for the level of success he has earned. From beginning to end, the characters stay true to their personalities, even when dealing with the never-ending series of crises Laudat throws at their collective feet.
The consistency of the characters follows through to the end. Laudat provides closure and a happy ending without wrapping up every subplot with a pretty pink bow. She allows the storylines to unfold in a realistic manner. Rather than manipulate and push every storyline in a pre-designed direction, she allows them to unfold in a realistic manner and if that means the ending is not so happy, Laudat is comfortable with that fact.
The weakness in this book – and it is a significant one – comes from the interlocking subplots and the fact they do not actually mesh together in a coherent story. Laudat takes on so many issues that none feel fully examined or fleshed out, including the romance which sputters along until approximately page 150, then it takes off without any real understanding or explanation of how the attraction grew into something more. The reader is left with the uneasy feeling the pacing would be tighter and smoother, and the romance more believable, if the subplots were streamlined. As written the story lags and the romance gets lost in the checklist of issues the characters have to overcome.
HelenKay’s response to Wendy: Did this book work for you in the traditional sense of a romantic suspense – where the romance and suspense aspects are bound together and cannot be separated? Or, is the weaving together of the two conflicts even necessary in your opinion?
Wendy’s response to HelenKay: I think a major failing of this work is its lack of cohesiveness. The ties the bind the various subplots are the thinnest and weakest of threads. Tightly weaving Wes and Michelle’s romance with a single external conflict would greatly strengthen this story.
HelenKay’s grade: While the author’s writing skills are considerable, the stop and start pacing and problem of competing storylines signficantly lower the grade on this book. I give it a C-.
Wendy’s grade: Under other circumstances I would have put the book down within the first fifty pages and not returned to it. D.