Friday, October 3, 2008

Life Begins in Arizona by Lee Morrison

TITLE: Life Begins in Arizona
AUTHOR: Lee Morrison
PUBLISHER: The Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 57k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $6.00

Dr. Claire Stevens has one fatal flaw – her abusive ex-husband. When he attacks her in her new home after getting released from the last time she had him arrested, Claire is only rescued through the intervention of her hunky neighbor, a man who turns out to be her new boss. Jake Cooper has a soft spot for saving people, especially women, and when he’s put on the spot after taking Claire to the hospital, the only way he can figure out how to protect her is to pretend to be her husband. Now they just have to find a way to live with their lie.

Stories about abuse usually have to walk a very thin line. Stray too far to either side, and you either get maudlin or uber-inspirational. Many authors also oversimplify what can be very difficult emotions. Though this particular author doesn’t fall in the latter trap, the story she's written still lacks the wallop such strong feelings demand.

The primary reason for this rests on the broad, perfect shoulders of her all-too-perfect hero. Jake Cooper is a successful ER doctor, now made the Medical Director, gorgeous, divorced because his wife was a tramp, understanding, and often sounds like poetry when he speaks. Don’t believe me?

“We are all a canvas waiting for life to paint itself on us, Claire. And once it begins, you can’t go back and erase it. You can blend to soften, add thinner to the mistakes to take attention away from them, layer the lessons to make the most of them, and in doing so the life on the canvas constantly evolves into a beautiful work of art, but you can never start with a blank canvas once you’ve already started to live. You can’t crawl under a rock and let life pass you by. It will find you in the aging, adding hues to your life that are dull and cracked. But you can enhance what you’ve been given by embracing the palette, understanding how the colors work together, learning where to blend, where to thin, and even where to breathe life into the mistakes.”

And he’s not an artist. Claire paints to relax, though, so it’s the perfect metaphor for her, one only Jake could provide. Oh, and did I mention? He reads her mind. Constantly. There is nothing he doesn’t do absolutely right, even giving her the space she wants. It’s entirely wish fulfillment writing, and completely unrelatable. He’s too perfect. And it’s annoying to say the least.

There is a chance he does have flaws. After Claire goes home from the hospital, in the period of time when she and Jake are getting to know each other for real, the story shifts from action to page after page of telling what is going on, so it’s entirely possible Jake’s flaws could have come out then. The problem is, I didn’t get to see any of it. All of the relationship development gets told to me, rather than getting to see it unfold for myself. Then, boom! They’re in love, and Jake’s even more perfect than he started out.

It doesn’t help that the story is hindered by writing like this: They kissed a slow burning kiss that transcended the universe in erotic pleasure. The phrasing is awkward, the imagery is trite, and the culminating effect of hitting that after chapters of boredom was for me to walk away from the story and almost not return.

I will say this to the author’s credit. She knows her medical stuff, and she doesn’t treat abuse as a simple subject. Claire’s thought processes, while boring to read, show complex flow and deeper understanding of some of the issues at hand. It was refreshing to see it handled like that. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to save the story.


7/10 – Technically okay, but long chapters of telling not showing encompass too much of the actual growth within the story


3/10 – Real people have flaws.


4/10 – Is there anything wrong about her? Not really. I just thought she was…boring.

Entertainment value

3/10 – I find it too difficult to invest in relationships with perfect people.

World building

7/10 – The author knows her medical stuff, and has clearly done her research on abuse victims.




Ann Somerville said...

Just what the world needs, another romantic hero called Jake. Authors, please, there are other names!

Book Utopia Mom said...

It boggles. Of course, then they start going too far in the other direction and trying to come up with unusual names, too. Oh, and the other name I'm so tired of seeing? Damian. Or Damien. Or D'amian. Because you know that apostrophe makes it different, of course.

Ann Somerville said...


That would be a book hurler right there.