Christlike communications are expressions of affection and not anger, truth and not fabrication, compassion and not contention, respect and not ridicule, counsel and not criticism, correction and not condemnation. They are spoken with clarity and not with confusion. They may be tender or they may be tough, but they must always be tempered.-L. Lionel Kendrick
Hypocrisy is not a way of getting back to the moral high ground. Pretending you’re moral, saying your moral is not the same as acting morally. -Alan Dershowitz
I have a big problem when the sanctimonious, holier than thou congressmen and women go on national television for six hours and beat somebody up with a stick, and not because I’m ‘Ms. Manners.’ That’s not what bothers me. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. – Bernard Goldberg
First thing to know? Buy this book. Really. If you are into intensity, romance, suspense and intrigue, and enjoy a good mystery, all rolled into one, this is one to buy right away. And don’t just buy it and put it in your “TBR” pile. Read the darn thing, OK? Then write a review. I would love to hear what you think.
Now that that is out of the way, you get to listen to me rant like a crazy person. Yep. That’s me, you all know I can rant with the best of them. And here goes!
First, Kelsey Browning is one kick-ass Texas gal. Of course, I see that she is now living in Georgia. Smart girl. Second, she has Texans down pat with a capital Sanctimonious A’hole. Common wisdom is that fiction books should draw you in, allow you to identify with the characters and create a world-view you can identify with and remember long after you put the book down. In Problems in Paradise, Browning does that in spades. As I was reading the book, I suffered fury with the power of a thousand white-hot supernovas, and the rage of a bipolar bunny on speed . . . Let me at that (b)witch! I will gnaw through her ankles, nom nom nom!!!* Because, believe me, Browning has Texas women down to a science – and the science has more to do with quoting “Love your neighbor” while pouring arsenic in your sweet tea than being there for you. In this case, quite literally.
And yes, before you wonder, I did 10-years in Texas (does it sound like I was doing a prison sentence? Hum… yep, pretty much!) Honestly, the only characters I really cared for were Eden Durant, the main character, and her girlfriends, Allie, Roxanne and Ashton. All with their own difficult times in Shelbyville, Texas, these four ladies have backbone and spirit, and more guts than a Texas feedlot. However, the rest of the town? Uh, not so much. What we see is a town full of, from my experience, your “Typical Texan” – sanctimonious and vicious, hypocritical, gossip mongering and mealy mouthed ‘witches-with-a-capital-B” women and wanna-be-tough, vicious, sanctimonious, hypocritical grab-handy males who think with their little heads instead of the ones on their shoulders. Well, of course, there are probably more brain cells in their little heads than their big ones . . . hum. Will have to consider that possibility.
Anyway! Browning has done a brilliant character study into small-town Texas mentality. Though, I suppose any small town in any state would probably be up to the same kind of cruelties this town is up to, given the opportunity. However, in Texas they always do the sanctimony up right. People here didn’t lie, didn’t try to get ahead at the expense of others. Yeah, what bullshit. Yep, pretty much wraps it up for you with a pretty little bow.
Eden is fairly new to this small, Texas town, and for the last two years she has operated her own little natural, organic foods café, Paradise – her own little paradise after a miserable, awful, very-much-no-good previous life. Serving locally sourced, organic foods, with a rotating menu and the freshest selections possible, Eden is running in the black, running around in her overalls and mukluks with her hair in braids, keeping her head down and keeping to herself, trying desperately to recover from the horror story of her previous life. All is going well, until one night someone breaks into her beloved café. That instance starts a chain reaction – a chain reaction designed to destroy her life. Odd poisonings, break-ins, and a climate of bible-banging hypocrites doing everything they can do to make themselves feel better by extinguishing any joy she might gain from life drives Eden to close her beloved café. Then things only get worse as her past crashes down on her and we learn the full extent of the betrayals and the heartaches that she has suffered in the past – and that now are returning to not only hurt her, but to destroy her very sanity. As the old Chinese proverb says: May you live in interesting times. And poor Eden is in for more interesting times than she ever could have imagined.
It is hard for me to decide how many stars to give this book. Oh, part of me wants to give it five stars simply because it had me screaming and storming around the house, yelling at the walls and crying in my 16-year-old-Glenlivet. Memories are a beyotch, aren’t they? I didn’t just identify with Eden for what she is going through now, but also what she went through in the past. Families can be total nightmares – but Eden’s more than most. But then, to be fair, I have to pull down a single star, though I really don’t want to. You see – as much as I enjoyed despising the characters in this book with a white-hot passion, I also felt in a way that the characters were just a bit over the top – caricatures drawn with a bit too wide of a brush. Of course, not to say they weren’t realistic to my experience . . . why is it that old, married men find it acceptable to crawl all over young, beautiful women – but when their wives find out about it, it is the woman’s fault??? I know, I know, men think with their little heads, not their big ones. But shouldn’t they take the blame for being the douche bags they are? Urg! Drives. Me. Nuts. Actually, it makes me ashamed of my sex. But be that as it may, it is, indeed, realistic and there isn’t anything I can do about it but gripe and moan and pour more Glenlivet.
This is, of course, this is a book which is heavy on the romance, so there is a hero. Beck is the Chief Deputy of their little burg and the surrounding county. A brilliant burn-out from a 100-hour-week New York financial position, and with his own pain in his past, Beck has returned to his home town and his position as CD, and is actually a fairly interesting hero. Kind and compassionate, he wishes to do all he can to help and protect the citizens of his county. But even more, he wishes to know, and love, Eden. Sort of hard when Eden is a riddle wrapped in an innuendo, with a ‘Plexiglas cocoon around her.’ As things become more and more dangerous for the townspeople, and for Eden, he is working hard to find the culprit who is threatening Eden and poisoning the town. Not a bad hero, all-in-all, but at the same time, I have a very strong feeling that, though he may ‘love’ Eden, he doesn’t respect her or what she stands for, what is important in her life. Here is where my four stars now begins to teeter on the edge of three-and-a-half stars. Though he supports Eden in many ways, late in the book I begin to feel less positively about their relationship as Eden begins to slip into the dreaded ‘heroine gives up her identity for the love of a man’ trope. Not badly, not to the point where I wanted to throw my Nook across the room for a wholly different reason, but bothersome. But then, Voltaire, the Blue Tick Coonhound does go a long way to bucking up his image, so I guess that will keeping my rating from dropping further. Gotta love a good dog!
So. I’ve had my rant. Go ahead. Get the book. Do it. Then tell us what YOU think about it. Would love to hear!
* Thanks to Celia Kyle for the reference from Ball of Furry, Ridgeville Series #2
This book was provided to me by Carina Press and Harlequin Enterprises Limited in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.
Publication Date: July 14, 2014.
About the Author:
Kelsey Browning writes sass kickin’ love stories full of hot heroes, saucy heroines and spicy romance. She’s also a co-founder of Romance University blog, one of Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers. Originally from a Texas town smaller than the ones she writes about, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she’s either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in northeast Georgia with Tech Guy, Smarty Boy, Bad Dog and Pharaoh, a Canine Companions for Independence puppy.