On the Edge
As I wrote my most recent review – for Tempting the Wolf – I realized that I liked the book more than I should have. With Ms. Britton’s newest the opposite was true. Though the writing was solid and I really enjoyed the first half, by the time I finished the book and discussed it with a friend I realized I liked it a whole lot less than I had thought.
Rebecca Newman is in a tough spot. The NASCAR team she inherited after her husband’s death is struggling both competitively and financially. And if she can’t remedy the first of those problems, then the second will take her under. In an attempt to find a new driver and drum up public interest in her teams (interest that doesn’t stem from her status as a NASCAR widow), Becca decides to hold an open call for drivers. When ten-year-old Lindsey Drake shows up at her office and asks Becca to consider her father for the position of driver, Becca is skeptical.
Adam Drake is more then a little angry to find out his daughter traveled on her own from Kentucky to North Carolina. Even though Adam loved being a driver, he’s sure he’s too old. And as a single dad, he’s just too busy to try out for Newman Motorsports. His genuine reluctance is overcome by Lindsey’s persistence and Becca Neman’s willingness to give him a try. What the heck, he figures. He’ll try out and fail miserably and everyone will return to their normal lives. If that means he gets to spend a little more time with a woman on whom he’s had a bit of a crush for years – just like every other red-blooded NASCAR fan – so much the better.
There wouldn’t be much more to the book if Adam didn’t take Newman Motorsports and the rest of the racing world by storm. His driving is good enough for Becca to hire him as a driver in the truck series. Getting past his initial trepidation, Adam takes the job, transplanting Lindsey and himself to North Carolina to join the team.
Truthfully, car races are a take it or leave it proposition for me. I watch them with my mother, who’s a fan, and I know enough of the names to pause if I’m flipping around the dial on a Sunday afternoon to see who’s in the lead (she’d like it to be Dale Earnhart, Jr., but it usually isn’t). Having admitted that fact, you’ll understand my surprise at realizing the racing scenes in the book were amongst my favorites.
When I examined that thought, I realized that those strong feelings arise out of the energy the author put into writing them. But the lack of that energy later in the novel is what killed my enjoyment. When Adam is racing those first few times, there was genuine tension. Sure I figured he’d do well, otherwise no book, remember? But the way in which Ms. Britton wrote it made me feel his anxiety and the pressure of doing well. I believed every word.
But as the racing gave way to the romance (as it had to do) I started to lose interest and in point of fact, become irritated – mostly with Becca and her endless agonizing about how she can’t be with Adam. I certainly wasn’t surprised that she would have some emotional difficulty in getting into a relationship with Adam, but hers went on too long and the reasons she gave became increasingly unbelievable. Not in the realistic way a person might make up reasons because she’s rationalizing, but in the way where you begin to suspect the author didn’t have a clue who her heroine was. Which brings me to what the problem is in a nutshelll. Ms. Britton knew who Adam was through and through. She’s obviously researched NASCAR drivers and racing thoroughly. No surprise then that her hero is a fully-realized, well-developed character who has root-worthy written all over him.
I think it’s also the explanation for the lack I found in the other characters. At various times Becca resists Adam because he works for her, because she’s not over her husband, because she doesn’t want to play second fiddle to racing, and because she doesn’t want to lose her identity within Adam’s success as a racer. Any one of these could make for good emotional tension, but piled on top of each other they start to sound a little ridiculous, especially given how quickly they all disappear when the author wraps things up. My irritation about her emotional vacillation only increased when she made a truly TSTL decision about her business.
Equally annoying were Becca’s friends (who seem to delight in embarrassing her and then make a decision with dire consequences), and little miss Lindsey. Lindsey starts out as a very appealing little girl trying to do her best for her dad – and ends up interfering and running amok enough times to make me long for her to be sent to her mother. Running away to do something good for your dad is cute once. Multiple manipulative events like that soon pall. And when she begins to spout things like “You can’t force yourself out of love because it’s the easier choice” and “You think just because your husband’s life was taken away it’s different than what happened to me?” I found myself paging back to the beginning to figure out how old she’s supposed to be (she’s ten, btw).
Ms. Britton is a capable writer; I don’t dispute that. But in this case I found myself wishing that Becca would adopt Lindsey and Adam would go off to race and find someone else altogether.