Friday, May 13, 2011

The Mitchell Money by Sue Fineman

TITLE: The Mitchell Money
AUTHOR: Sue Fineman
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 76k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $6.50

Rachel Woods hasn’t been widowed for long, but she’s already discovered that she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did. For starters, he’s made all their money disappear, but when she tries to find out, she hits a blank wall. She’s forced to seek the help out of a young lawyer friend in town, who trades her services as a cook for his ex-cop father’s investigative abilities. Gary Martinson is surly and obnoxious from the moment they meet, but Rachel has little choice but to rely upon his expertise as she tries to ferret out the truth of the life her husband led without her knowledge…

Honestly, the blurb is the most interesting thing about this book. If I’d had another book available to me at the time I was reading this, I wouldn’t have finished it. Extra innings at my daughter’s softball game is the biggest reason I did.

It’s not like there isn’t potentially interesting stuff that happened. Rachel is a forty-five year-old widow who has only just discovered that her husband emptied their bank accounts right before he died suddenly, leaving her in the middle of their house construction with no marketable job skills and a mountain of debt. With nobody else to turn to, she goes to the young lawyer who helped them buy their land. He offers her a job cooking for him and his widower father, and in exchange, his dad, an ex-cop, will do what he can to find her money. It’s the only deal Rachel feels she can get so she accepts. She soon discovers that the surly man she literally ran into in town is the lawyer’s father, but after a rough start, agrees to stay in the agreement. Gary starts digging around and it quickly comes to light that Rachel’s husband was leading a double life. He had a son by another woman, a young teenager who has been living on the streets since his mother died, as well as an entire history Rachel never knew about. Rachel and Gary work together to unravel the truth, and slowly end up building another family in the process.

Sounds like it should be good, doesn’t it? There was so much potential here. Rachel and Gary are an older couple, which always makes for a nice change, and if the living a double life angle is a tad overdone, I thought the second chance at romance approach was a nice way of going about it. It might have been, too, if the prose itself wasn’t so awful. It’s clean enough technically, I suppose, but it’s all telling instead of showing, and the headhopping is insane, often switching perspectives within the same paragraph. Everything that’s wrong with this comes back to its dishwater voice and pedantic presentation:

As the days passed, Johnny and Rachel settled into a routine at the ranch, and the four of them became a family. Johnny worked in the barn or bunkhouse after school, helping Joe get ready to open the ranch for business again. With Gary’s encouragement and Joe’s brotherly love, Johnny thrived. Rachel did her part, too, cooking nutritional meals and reassuring him he’d always have a home with her. She loved the boy as if she’d known him forever.

This is what passes for character development. Instead of showing me how Gary and Rachel manage to get over their antagonism with each other (it just seems to evaporate out of nowhere after being so caustic in the first few chapters, I was convinced they would never work through it), I get this convenient little time jump. There’s also no sense of tension in the external plot, as Gary conveniently removes the obstacles that make it dire for Rachel to find the money. Her need for independence remains, but honestly, most of the time it felt like an excuse to act stubborn rather than organic to any kind of character development.

Simply put, I was bored to tears. The characters were flat, the writing style immature, and the potential lost.


5/10 – The prose is overly simplistic and pedantic, with too much telling and headhopping


5/10 – Flat and uninteresting, a victim of the colorless narrative


5/10 – She suffers the same fate as the hero

Entertainment value

2/10 – There might have been some good ideas in the basic plot, but I was so bored by halfway through, it didn’t even matter

World building

4/10 – As uninteresting as the rest of the story



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