Last year I read Jill Winters’s debut, Plum Girl, and thought it showed potential, so I asked to review her second book. Even though Blushing Pink is a somewhat better by comparison and allows Winters’s humorous voice to shine through more clearly, it has a number of flaws that made it no more than an average read.
Reese Brock is in a history Ph.D program on fellowship. Even though this means she doesn’t have to pay tuition, her fellowship also means the professor she assists uses her as a virtual slave “ghostwriting massive sections of his latest book for no credit.” She hasn’t finished her own dissertation yet, or even really started it – small wonder considering that she’s always working on Professor Kimble’s magnum opus rather than her own. She’s beginning to wonder if she really wants that Ph.D, but her parents are so proud of her academic achievements, that Reese is afraid to examine her thoughts too closely. This is pretty typical behavior for Reese – she’s so afraid to upset anyone that she’s willing to put her own dreams on hold while she tries to please everyone else.
Reese’s sister Ally is getting married, and her family is in a typical wedding-related uproar. Reese is worried because she’s overweight (a “snug size eight,” which totally fails to win my sympathies – only in romance novels is a size eight considered chubby). In the meantime, her mother (whom Reese still calls Mommy) feeds her heavy French food every time she visits, which doesn’t improve her figure. Also involved in the wedding is best man Brian Doren. Brian and Reese shared a hot kiss two years ago, and Reese is immediately stricken with lust when she sees him again. Unfortunately, Brian’s ex-fiancee Veronica wants to reconcile. Who will Brian choose?
This book is funny, but many of the characters are too far over the top. For example, we have Reese’s bossy, manipulative mom; her cold, emotionless boyfriend; Brian’s whiny, demanding ex-fiancee; and Reese’s father, who does nothing during the entire book except quote Ben Franklin. All these characters can readily be described in a brief phrase, which should give you an idea of how sketchily drawn they are. Furthermore, Reese lets herself be trampled on by her boss for far too long, which was part of my problem with Plum Girl as well. I’d love to see Winters write a story about a competent working woman. Ditzy is one thing, and spineless is another. Reese is too far over into the latter category for my liking.
Another serious problem with the book is that the misunderstandings forming the basis of the conflict are entirely too flimsy. Brian overhears Reese describing her boyfriend in unattractive terms to get her mother off her back, and because she mentioned his name earlier, he assumes she’s talking about him. This misunderstanding isn’t cleared up for sixty-five pages. Later, Reese incorrectly concludes Brian is back with his fiancee based on a casual remark dropped by a friend. This misunderstanding consumes twenty-five pages. For those of you who aren’t good at math (I checked my pocket calculator to be sure), that’s ninety pages where the hero and heroine are kept apart by the silliest of misunderstandings. And the rest of the conflict in the book consists mostly of Brian allowing himself to be manipulated by his ex-fiancee, but this subplot is wrapped up pretty easily. Frankly, every bit of conflict in the book doesn’t amount to much.
When Brian and Reese finally get together, though, the book really improves, getting both sexy and much more emotional. Toward the end of the book, Brian and Reese both grow in believable and meaningful ways as a result of their relationship. It’s just what I like to see in a romantic novel – love changing people for the better.
Blushing Pink is fun. The main characters are likable, if a little slow to develop, and the sex is pretty darn hot. If the plot weren’t so insubstantial, and if the supporting characters were better depicted, it could be a terrific book. As it is, it’s not a great way to wile away a summer afternoon, but not a bad way either.