Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Family Business by Emma McKee

TITLE: Family Business
AUTHOR: Emma McKee
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 62k)
GENRE: Contemporary romantic suspense
COST: $3.99

Loan officer Nora Bainbridge’s great-aunt is as eccentric as they come, but then again, as an aging actress from Hollywood’s golden era, she’s expected to be. When she breaks her leg, she asks for Nora to move in and take care of her cat, a financial arrangement Nora can’t refuse right now. Little does she know that the TV producer poking his nose around, looking for information on her Aunt Elnora’s ancient connections with the mob, is really an FBI agent, or that he just might be the answer to her recent dry spell…

When an author’s humor works for me, I’m much more inclined to finish a book, even when I can see its flaws. This was one of those cases.

It opens with FBI agent Luke McKinnon staking out aging Hollywood actress, Elnora Bainbridge, in hopes he can determine whether or not his teenaged crush is involved in a stolen art scam. He witnesses her take a fall while chasing her cat and calls 911 anonymously. That same fall puts Elnora in the hospital, and prompts her to pay her great-niece, named after her, to housesit and take care of the over-indulged cat. Nora agrees only because she needs the money. She’s barely making ends meet as she struggles to regain her financial footing after her ex cleaned her out. Luke shows up and introduces himself as a television producer, interested in doing a show on Elnora. He’s struck by the physical similarities between the two women, and it becomes harder for him to separate his growing feelings for Nora with the pressing evidence that Elnora really is involved in something illegal. He should know, after all. His grandfather was one of the mobsters who fought over Elnora before she gave up her acting career for good.

I fell for this story very early on, mostly because I was laughing out loud in the first few pages at Luke’s spying antics. The humor in this worked for me, mostly because I got sucked in by Luke’s appalled thoughts that he would now be scarred with memories of his favorite teenaged crush running around naked in her eighties. It’s a little silly, but that farcical nature worked within the context of the story, keeping it light for most of its length. Not all of it was a success. I’m not a fan of puns at all, and having the nosy neighbor named Ima Payne was mostly just eyeroll-worthy. Still, I liked Nora and Luke’s self-deprecating humor enough to like them in conjunction, thus making it easier to invest in their potential romance.

The supporting cast is colorful as well, from her spirited Aunt Elnora with her illicit online businesses, to Elnora’s attorney Albert, all the way to the overweight, over-indulged cat, Mr. Witherby. Nora bounces around from person to animal with a refreshing aplomb, and if she sometimes seems a bit scattered as a result, it’s nice to be remembered that events are happening very quickly within the story (so quickly that at least once, the author messes up the timeline). More get introduced as the story progresses, and it’s the firm addition of the Mob (as opposed to the hints that they might be involved at the top of the story) that actually starts weakening the tale.

So much is made about what might have happened, the truth is very anticlimactic when it comes out. Then, it plays out so quickly, in a scene that’s far too talky even for a farce, that I was left with a vague sense of, “That’s it?” Add to that a time jump at the end that, while justified, watered down the response rather than heightened it, and I was a little disappointed by the time I got my HEA. If only the last third had lived up to the hype of the first two. This could’ve been truly remarkable then.


8/10 – Humor goes a long way in smoothing over rough transitions and an anticlimactic ending


7/10 – His perspective was what enticed me to make this a definite finish, funny and just deprecating enough to be charming


7/10 – Self-aware with just enough of an edge

Entertainment value

7/10 – I responded to humor in this, as well as the obvious love for old movies, though the ending didn’t live up to the promise of the first two-thirds

World building

7/10 – Enough hints to make it interesting, not enough to make it rich



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