Sometimes I get weird looks when I tell people I love to read romance novels. Occasionally, I’ll actually have someone say something about how ridiculous romance novels are on the whole. Normally, I’m a little annoyed by this way of thinking, because I know for a fact that a lot of the stories that I read aren’t just good for a romance novel, they’re good books. Period.
Then I come across a story like Broken, and I think to myself, “This! This is why people think romance novels are ridiculous!”
Broken begins with a moment so absurd that—for me, at least—it makes the entire rest of the book impossible to take seriously. Sheridan O’Neil, assistant to Deacon Cavanaugh, is sitting in a pastry shop discussing cake when her boss’ brother James rides into town on a horse. Sheridan has met James before, understands that he works with the horses on Deacon’s ranch, and so shouldn’t be surprised to see him acting the part of a cowboy.
Yet Sheridan is shocked. Or perhaps “shocked” isn’t the right word. Rather, she is so in awe of James and his masculine beauty that she promptly forgets her middle name upon seeing him. After spending a minute racking her brain for it (“What was it? Dorie? Donna?”) Sheridan goes on to describe what this beautiful apparition who just rode into town looks like.
“A man was riding down the street atop a very rebellious-looking black-and-white horse. No. Not a man. A cowboy. No. Not a cowboy. The hottest cowboy she’d ever seen in her life. Probably the hottest cowboy in existence.”
If I hadn’t been reading this for review, I would have put the book away right then and never opened it again. As it was, I closed it and took my time in returning to it, too embarrassed for Sheridan and her ridiculous thoughts to continue reading immediately.
When I did return to Broken, I found that the rest of the story was similarly absurd. The plot itself was not objectionable—Sheridan, although drawn to James, is hesitant to get involved with the brother of her boss. Eventually, after taking her riding and helping her deal with a rebellious and difficult contractor, James is able to convince Sheridan to give them a shot. They encounter some trouble toward the end when James begins to fear that being with him will result in problems for Sheridan (because he blames himself for his sister’s death and his ex-girlfriend’s rape), but with time and discussion they work everything out. It may not always have been riveting, but the plot in this book was decent enough to have earned it a decent grade.
If only the actual writing had been a little less overdone.
Sheridan herself has a tendency to wax poetic about James and his sexiness, which gets old fast. She also reveals only a little about herself and her backstory, which made it difficult to get a good feel for her as a character. James, on the other hand, likes to be overdramatic and obsesses over his past. The murder of his sister, which happened a number of years ago, is one of his particular favorite topics. Although that mystery was the one thing I found truly compelling in the book, I did not need to hear about it incessantly.
Happily, though, I am now finished with this book. I wish I had been able to like it more, but I knew after that first scene that I was in for approximately 300 pages of purple prose and high drama. I suppose this means I cannot fault the people who refuse to try romance novels for their desire to avoid books such as Broken, given that I feel the same way myself.