In my review of Beautiful Oblivion, I compared Jamie McGuire’s Maddox Brothers series to Twinkies® – they taste great but they’re really very bad for you. After reading book three, Beautiful Sacrifice: A Novel (after all, there are always two Twinkies in a pack), my comparison proves spot on. These books are assembly-line manufactured sweets, so uniform in appearance as to be practically interchangeable.
Falyn Fairchild is as fiercely independent as they come. For the past five years, she’s held down a waitressing job at the Bucksaw Café, saving every penny she makes while living in the cheap studio apartment above the restaurant, all so that she can have nothing whatsoever to do with her controlling, manipulative parents. The owners, wait-staff and customers of the Bucksaw serve as her adopted family, and that’s all the people Falyn needs in her life. She certainly has no interest in getting involved with any of the Hot Shot firefighters who frequent the café during Colorado Spring’s wildfire season, even if they are as good-looking and charming as Taylor Maddox.
But Taylor Maddox does have one attribute that Falyn finds irresistible. When she learns that he comes from Eakins, Illinois, she determines that it is worth the risk to get close to him. Falyn lives with a tremendous secret guilt, and she’s sure that the only way to find any sense of peace is to travel to Eakins to confront the biggest tragedy in her life. She allows Taylor to slip through the smallest cracks in her prickly demeanor, developing a friendship that becomes genuine when she discovers that Taylor can give bitchy-attitude right back at her. With his help, she travels to Eakins and confronts her past. But as she faces a clean future – one that she might even be ready to share with Taylor – obstacles that she never imagined stand in the way.
Once again, I will admit that this third installment in the Maddox Brothers series is highly readable, with McGuire’s trademark snarky dialogue. The characters are charmingly likeable, but they read so much like the characters in the other titles that I honestly typed this hero’s name as “Tyler” through this entire review before I caught my mistake and had to fix it to the correct “Taylor”. (Tyler’s story is in the next book.)
These books follow a fill-in-the-blank formula, the exact same ingredients found in each one: a Maddox brother who is amazingly hot, protective, sassy and persistent. A heroine with an alliterative name who is resistant to Maddox-charm, independent, carries a horrible secret and comes from a highly dysfunctional family. A plot that involves the heroine openly resisting the Maddox brother, said brother worming his way into her life until they become friends, the friendship morphing into more but some Big Secret standing in the way of a happily ever after. One or more demonstrations of the Maddox brother’s hot-headedness, ability to fight effectively, and extreme protectiveness of his woman. A best friend who is in a serious, steady relationship that experiences turbulence. An unnecessary break up based on miscommunication and false thinking that someone isn’t good enough for the other. The Maddox brother finding it completely impossible to keep his penis in his pants with disastrous results. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Additionally, all of these books must, in some way, contain references to Beautiful Disaster’s Travis and Abby because the couple is by far McGuire’s most popular. The Maddox Brothers stories run concurrently with Travis and Abby’s saga, so we re-tread the same storyline over and over and over again, getting new viewpoint perspectives on how fantastically in love Travis and Abby are, in case we forgot. This time Taylor and Falyn travel to the Virgin Islands to watch Travis and Abby formally cement their teen-marriage vows.
The problem here is that without anything new to distract me, problems with the story become glaring. First of all, there is the completely implausible coincidence that drives the entire plot but simply couldn’t ever happen. The odds of Taylor Maddox, who not only comes from the town of Eakins but lived next door to the EXACT ADDRESS that Falyn is so desperate to visit, walking into the Bucksaw Café and meeting her are off the charts. Throw in them falling in love and you risk eye-roll injury.
Falyn’s big secret is pretty easy to figure out, but still McGuire tries to obfuscate information and hints so that there can be some kind of shocking reveal moment. Given that the story is told solely from Falyn’s point of view, this tactic doesn’t work. Falyn knows the truth, therefore we readers should get to know the truth as well. Rather than appreciate the effort to keep me turning pages to find the answers, this just frustrated the heck out of me.
Taylor doesn’t use a condom. Ever. This is clearly intentional for reasons that become obvious, but it’s irritating because the other brothers and their lady-loves have proven religious about protection, so there is no good explanation for this oversight other than plot contrivance.
Maddox family patriarch Jim has no idea that his sons are hot shot firefighters because they don’t want to worry him with their dangerous jobs. WTF?
Despite my issues with this book, I can’t call it bad. Honestly, if you’d never read another Beautiful title, this one might work for you because you hadn’t seen it all before. For now, though, I’ve eaten enough Twinkies and am ready to move on to other baked goods.