According to her cover blurb, Sherryl Woods has published over sixty books. I’ve enjoyed some of those. Ask Anyone, unfortunately, gave me the impression of a good author on autopilot.
Bobby Spencer owns a tract of riverfront property in his hometown of Trinity Harbor, Virginia, which he wants to develop in a family-friendly way. He refuses to take the calls of one developer, Jenna Kennedy – I’ll get to his reasons for that in a minute – and so to get his attention she puts a carousel horse on his front lawn. It does get his attention, and so does her sexy self. But Bobby’s attraction to Jenna makes him extremely uncomfortable, and he is still unwilling to work with her. Jenna too is wary of the chemistry between herself and Bobby, but she is determined to get the development contract on Bobby’s property. That, in essence, is the entire plot.
I started having problems on page 28, when we realize why Bobby had refused to take Jenna’s calls:
“Though he hadn’t settled on a specific plan for his boardwalk project, he knew one thing for certain – he didn’t want to deal with a woman. Not that he had anything against women. His sister was one, after all. And some of his best friends were females.”
Yeah, some of mine are, too. We are told that Bobby is a nice man, a compassionate and caring man – a gentleman. What we see is an obnoxious and often pompous man whose pathetic justification for his sexist actions is that, over ten years ago, his fiancée broke up with him and married his friend. (The urge to make a sarcastic remark here is almost overwhelming.) I know that Woods is capable of giving a character convincing reasons for his feelings, and of letting his actions demonstrate his true personality. But that doesn’t happen here.
Anyway, Bobby agrees to look at Jenna’s plans. Even though they are perfect for his property and exactly what he has in mind, Bobby drags his feet, tries to get rid of Jenna, and constantly moans about how he doesn’t want to get involved with her on any level, business or personal.
Jenna is less annoying than Bobby. She’s an intelligent professional woman and a single mom, and she doesn’t let her brains go to mush when she gets close to Bobby. I appreciated that. But I lost a lot of respect for her when I learned that she was pursuing the Trinity Harbor project without the consent or backing of the company that employs her. Is that even legal? We learn that she is desperate to impress her father by getting this deal, but that didn’t make her more sympathetic – it just made her seem needy.
The chemistry between these two characters is almost nil. Partly that’s because I didn’t like them. Another reason is that, although the conflicts between them seemed minor and easily dealt with, they didn’t actually kiss until about halfway through the book. There are so many subplots and secondary characters that Jenna and Bobby’s relationship frequently gets shunted off to the side – by the end of the book they’re hardly spending any time together at all.
Many pages are devoted to Bobby’s matchmaking father, his meddling sister (heroine of About That Man), his brother (an obvious sequel candidate), Jenna’s family, the local pastor, the local newspaperman, several local children, the blustering mayor, some sleazy real estate development types, and so on. The carousel horse gets stolen. Bobby’s father breaks up with his girlfriend. Jenna’s daughter runs into trouble with local youths. A huge revelation about Bobby’s ex-fiancée is thrown in near the end of the book. Without a strong central romance to drive this book, all of these subplots seem like substanceless filler.
Ask Anyone is a smoothly written book with a good sense of setting and an interesting premise. But with its tiresome characters and plethora of weak subplots, it reads like a book that the author just didn’t think about enough before she wrote it. Woods has written some good stuff in the past, but I can’t recommend this one.