Mr. Right Goes Wrong
This book should have been titled Ms. Good Writer Goes Wrong. While the author has penned many of my favorites (seven of her titles are DIK’s for me) this hot mess almost seemed like it had been written by someone else using her name.
After thoroughly screwing up her life Mazy Gulliver finds herself pulling into her mother’s driveway with only a car full of possessions and her fourteen-year-old son Tru. As a woman who loves too much, too stupidly, too easily and too often she is starting over yet again after a failed affair has done critical destruction to her career. The first order of business is to find a job and Mazy has that easily covered. Waltzing into the bank where her baby daddy works she blandly informs the Sperm Donor that he can either give her a job or be sued for child support. Since he has been denying since high school that the boy is his he gives her a job.
That responsibility out of the way, Mazy settles into a quiet life of rebuilding her reputation, helping her mom and bonding with her teenage son. Just kidding! Why would she do any of that? After two days of getting settled in Mazy heads next door to visit her friend with benefits Eli Latham. Eli and Mazy have been best buds forever. He’s helped her heal a broken heart more than once. And it isn’t like Eli resembles the other guys she’s hooked up with; Eli is sweet, dependable, has a job, friends, a family and is nice. He’s a safe person to play with while she rebuilds. And besides, it’s been a while since she got any and she really needs this.
Eli knows that Mazy is just passing the time with him. When his brother points out the only guys she wants for anything more than a mattress are the ones who treat her like dirt a light bulb goes on: Eli can be a jerk! All he has to do is copy the guys Mazy has complained of in the past. Faster than you can say Mr. Hyde Eli starts ogling other women, kicking Mazy out of his bed after sex, not calling when he says he will, canceling plans or just not showing up – in other words, he becomes the jerks she has left him for in the past. He figures when he has her good and hooked he’ll turn nice again. But can he go the distance and be the jerk he needs to be to win his lady love? And when the time comes to change, will he find himself stuck permanently in Mr. Wrong mode when he’s really a Mr. Right?
I’ll start with why this book isn’t an F. It’s not an F because the author is an experienced writer and her prose is smooth and easy to read. It’s not an F because the glimpse of small town life we see around the disaster that is Mazy is charming. I’s not an F because a few of the peripheral secondary characters that were sketched out enough to be more than cardboard cutouts were interesting. But the other factors in the book? Definitely F material.
Let’s start with the main characters. They were scary. They weren’t scary cool like the characters of Gone Girl, they were just plain scary. Mazy is a woman who can’t live without a hookup. As Tru put it, “There is always going to be someone. I get it. For you, being alone is always going to be just a lull between . . . adventures.” The problem is that she picks men who treat her badly or as she put it “the guys that she’d truly loved . . . really were bad.” Over the course of her life she has moved in and out with many of them, dragging her young son along. One of them slapped him which stopped her from having them move in but it didn’t keep her from having them ruin their lives. What bothered me most is that Mazy didn’t own her sexuality; she wasn’t having fun with it and able to go about her life the rest of the time. Her sexuality owned her; her need for a man was what she based many of her life decisions on. Even that might have been okay if I had seen her be something besides needy – if I had seen her taking time to hang out with Tru or being kind to Eli without sex attached or even seen her as she took over household care for her elderly mom but none of that happened. The only positives I saw were her friendship with a local woman (which was a writing trick utilized to paint some background information on the town and provide some dialogue) and I saw her do her job. And yes, the scene where she is a big heroine for someone with a bank problem? That was her doing her job. So Mazy’s characterization can be summed up as sex addict.
Eli wasn’t much better. I feared he might have some sort of undiagnosed stalker syndrome. He just is so in love with Mazy that it exceeds obsession and enters into dangerous. And he is determined to have her. At one point, when he is debating whether or not he should go through with his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde plan he thinks “if he was ever going to trick her into a happily ever after.” I’m sorry but that is not what I want from my romance – the hero deceiving the heroine into falling in love with him. We’re not talking about pretending to be rich or pretending to be a mail clerk when you’re the CEO either. He planned to switch personalities and then change after he had her hooked. What?? Don’t we fall in love with the personality? And how was this supposed to work? What would keep Mazy from leaving him when he changed back to Mr. Nice Guy? And didn’t it disturb or worry him at all that the woman he loved was so psychologically damaged in the romance department? Eli is fleshed out a touch more than Mazy – he has a job he loves and is an important part of his family and community – but the psychology of his love affair with the heroine had me worried for his sanity. I didn’t want him getting with this girl. I wanted him to seek professional help.
Things might have been helped if the primary secondary characters had been well drawn but Tru was the typical Good Teen character, Mazy’s mom had no personality that I could discern and the villain was a small town big shot gone bad caricature. Eli’s family didn’t really fare any better although Mazy’s coffee buddy and a few other outliers were well done. Having the only people with personalities be on the outer edge of the story kept things from being completely awful but it wasn’t enough to keep this ship from sinking.
Since the romance was the plot there is nothing to bolster the sickening effect of the love story. Essentially the story was about Mazy going home and working out the issues in the relationship with Eli. And while I don’t want to give away the ending I will say that the so-called HEA revealed that Mazy was as stupid as ever and Eli never quit being the doormat she wiped her feet on.
Obviously, I can’t recommend this book. Hopefully the author’s next novel will live up to her previous ones and this will just be glitch in an otherwise stellar career.