Changing the Rules
With a title like Changing The Rules, one might expect a book that challenges expectations, chafes against convention, or presents a new view on an old romantic problem. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t deliver on that promise, and the essential romantic conflict is never seriously in doubt either. Niqui Stanhope’s writing is very good and her ability to cast a scene and create believable, fun dialogue almost – but not quite – make up for the fact that the hero and heroine face hardly any impediments to their HEA.
Dumped on her 30th birthday no less and subjected to relentless maternal nagging to find a man to marry, Marcel Templeton is beginning to feel desperate in her search for a normal man. Since her father’s death, she has made his dreams of owning a successful urban magazine a reality and, while she makes wise decisions at work, Marcel isn’t so smart in her personal life. She tends to fall for the handsome player type, the kind who eye other women and show no signs of settling down. One day at lunch with a friend Marcel draws up “The Rules,” a list of attributes a potential man must have. Her rules are modern (length and girth are mentioned), but nothing out of the ordinary. She feels as if she has a purpose, that she is finally ready to marry, when she leaves the restaurant.
Ian Michaels is the good-looking, confident owner of a multi-media corporation expanding to the West Coast. Now that he is the guardian for his deceased brother’s daughter, Ian has begun to realize that he’s too devoted to his business. He wants to find a woman with whom to settle down, and after a vehicular encounter with Marcel, he decides she is the one. (Even though he doesn’t know anything about her except that she doesn’t fall into his arms when he asks her out.)
Marcel decides that a man like Ian couldn’t possibly be really interested in her, and if even if he was, he’s just a player, anyway – someone so good-looking he would no doubt eventually stray. But while on a disastrous date with another guy, Marcel gets rescued by Ian, who then shows up later to mow her lawn. (Even that doesn’t convince her that he’s really interested in her.) Marcel’s internal dialogue reveals her problems with self-confidence and the various reasons she doesn’t trust Ian, but nothing she says is particularly convincing.
The book continues with Marcel feeling the brunt of her mother’s constant haranguing, her best friend’s bluntness, and Ian’s perseverance. While Marcel is likable, it never seems that her current romantic crisis is all that dramatic and, since it’s hard to feel her suffering, it’s also hard to rejoice when she is finally happy. Her mother has a line towards the end that epitomized the book’s lackluster conflict: “It’s never a good thing to have a man think that he’s the only horse in the race.” With this book, not only was there never another horse in the race, there was never any doubt as to just who would be in the Winner’s Circle. Good, solid writing can carry a book only so far.