Have you ever gone back to look at a beloved childhood movie or book as an adult and suddenly realized how overly simplistic it was? In children’s stories life is often painted in black-and-white, which is fine, since you wouldn’t expect a young child to understand the nuances of a more complex character or plot. Ever After is a book written for adults in this same simplistic style, which doesn’t work at all—and presents myriad other problems as well.
Hallie Hartley is a modern-day Cinderella—when she was eleven her widower father remarried, introducing Hallie to Ruby and her daughter Shelly, two women who did their best to make her life awful. Although her mother has since passed, Shelly is alive and carrying on the tradition by attempting to steal Hallie’s inheritance of a house on Nantucket just as the book opens. Luckily, Hallie walks in just as Shelly is signing papers for the house, whirlwind series of events which ultimately lands her in the new house on Nantucket, finally turning her back on her evil stepsister.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of a complication with the house, in that there are already a few occupants. Aside from the two matchmaker ghosts there is a certain wounded skier by the name of Jamie Taggert who’s moved in in anticipation of Hallie—who became a certified physical therapist approximately two seconds before the story began—being able to take him on as a patient (something Shelly promised to do, pretending to be Hallie). In her hurry to get away from her stepsister, Hallie decides to abandon the position she already had set up at a local hospital and take care of Jamie.
Once on Nantucket, Hallie discovers a number of things. First, she and Jamie are wildly attracted to each other—something she definitely hadn’t planned on happening with her first official patient. She also realizes something more than a skiing accident must have happened to Jamie, because he won’t show her more of his body than his one injured leg and he has awful nightmares each night….which prompts her to start kissing him each night around 2 a.m. to comfort him in his sleep. When his family starts showing up in droves for a wedding—we’re talking the whole extended Montgomery-Taggert clan featured in most of Ms. Deveraux’s books—Hallie finally gets a bit overwhelmed (as does the reader), although she’s equally excited to be welcomed into this perfect family.
The problems I found in this book were numerous and glaring. The most bothersome pieces stem from the character of Hallie herself, who bears little resemblance to any normal person I know. She’s drawn as a sort of perfect character—always helpful to everyone, to the point of having others take advantage of her. But then, when you step back, you realize how incredibly ridiculous she is. She just finished medical school, is finally licensed to practice physical therapy and has a job lined up…and then abruptly decides to leave it all behind and take on a different patient in Nantucket, sight unseen. I have no idea whether or not she thought about what such a move would mean for her future career. Certainly she wasted no time thinking about her future career once she met Jamie.
Indeed, I cannot think of an acceptable place outside the fairytale “Sleeping Beauty” where you can kiss someone who is asleep, doesn’t know you’re there, and isn’t romantically involved with you. At least, you can’t do that without being considered a creep—particularly when that person is currently your patient. I’m not sure how Hallie can consider herself a professional and even go on a rant about Jamie respecting her profession when she does this repeatedly, even getting into bed with him at one point. It’s irresponsible, bizarre behavior which, somehow, no one seems to take exception to.
In fact, everyone in the book seems to love her. But then, everyone else in the book is perfectly perfect too—even Shelly! For instance, Braden, Hallie’s childhood crush, shows up on Nantucket towards the end. He loves Hallie as a friend but wants to set her free to be with Jamie, so concocts an elaborate plot….you know what, it’s not even worth describing. Suffice it to say Braden, as well as the hordes of Montgomerys and Taggerts running around (all of whom are given names, creating a cast of far too many secondary characters) all adore Hallie Hartley.
To go along with Perfect Hallie, Jamie is designed as the ideal fairytale prince. He’s always kind, outrageously good-looking, very heroic, and thinks that curvy Hallie is much more attractive than her model stepsister. A touch of PTSD makes him vulnerable and loveable, and the addition of his family makes him the total package. Beyond this annoying level of perfection, though, Jamie is actually rather boring. It’s hard to say—I spent so much of the book taken up with being bothered by Hallie—but so far as I could tell, there was nothing really memorable about him. No witty commentary, no tremendously annoying commentary…just boring.
I could go on. The matchmaking ghosts, Hallie’s easy weight loss, Shelly’s transformation…there were so many things that bothered me about this book. I strongly recommend against reading it, and will admit that the only reason it didn’t land as an F for me was that Ms. Deveraux is a skilled writer, even if the stories that she writes lack reasonable plotlines and characters. Sadly, that’s not enough for me to plan on picking up another of her books anytime soon.