The penultimate love scene at the end of Only His involves a giant metal vagina. Yep. True love is declared amidst a giant metal vagina. This didn’t work for me. In fact, pretty much nothing about Ms. Mallery’s latest in the Fool’s Gold series didn’t. This was my first time reading a book by Ms. Mallery and I suspect it will be my last.
The heroine of this book is Nevada Hendrix. Nevada and her big wacky family live in Fool’s Gold, a town that could only exist in fiction. Everyone in the town has either an eccentric personality and/or a troubled past. Women run the place which is crime, politics, and reality free. As the story begins, Nevada is interviewing for a job as construction manager for the new casino Janack Construction is building on nearby tribal land. She’d thought she’d be interviewed by the head of the firm, Elliot Janack, but, to her horror, finds herself facing his son Tucker, who as the first line of the book points out, has seen her naked.
Ten years ago, when Nevada was in college in Los Angeles, she, on the advice of her elder brother Ethan — he and Tucker were friends for a summer in high school— looked up Tucker. The very moment she saw him, she “could only stare at the man she knew she would love for the rest of her life.” Sadly, her “love at first sight” wasn’t mutual. Tucker was already madly in love with gorgeous, famous sculptress (and utter narcissist) Caterina “Cat” Stoicasescu. One night, Cat (who is a total tool) breaks up with Tucker and tells Nevada Tucker needs her in his time of sorrow. Nevada hurries to Tucker’s sloshed side, seduces him (even though she’s a virgin), then gets her heart broken first when Tucker yowls Cat’s name as he comes and then again when, a day later, Cat takes Tucker back.
After awkwardly acknowledging their past, Tucker hires Nevada and they become reacquainted. Nevada still loves Tucker but won’t admit it. Tucker, after being Cat’s bitch, has sworn off love forever. The two proceed to behave in truly perplexing ways. Tucker is bizarrely flirty with Nevada even though she’s his employee and Fool’s Gold is one of those small towns where everyone knows everything anyone does. Nevada wants to professionally impress all the men who work for her, but still begins having sex with Tucker. Neither Tucker nor Nevada made a lick of sense to me. The first time they have sex — in the trailer on the work site — they are desperate to find a condom. The second time — in Nevada’s bathtub — birth control isn’t mentioned. I’m not even sure why they were having sex in the first place. Ms. Mallery writes as though their lust for one another is a given. Their passion feels flat, even fake, as do their post coital chats. They are neither an interesting nor believable pair.
They are in good company. Almost no one in Only His is interesting or believable. Many of them are, at times, unlikable. There’s a scene near the beginning of the book where Nevada tells her mother, in confidence, the story of her tragic collegiate tryst with Tucker. Her mother, Denise, then tells Nevada’s brother Ethan so that he will “punish” Tucker. Ethan, who never knew his old friend had done the deed with Nevada, goes to the local bar where Tucker is having lunch, punches him in the face, and then dines with him. In the alternative universe that is the town of Fool’s Gold, Denise and Ethan are acting lovingly and everybody has a good laugh. Again, I didn’t get it. I’d be mighty peeved at my mom if she treated my secrets with so little care and at my brothers were they to behave like overprotective morons.
Denise acts oddly more than once in this story. Only His has two prominent secondary romances one of which involves Denise, who has been widowed for over a decade, and her first lover Max whose name she has tattooed on her hip. Their love story is a mix of hot sex (Nevada is sooo bummed to walk in on them doing it on the kitchen table) and cold rebuttals (Denise feels guilty for loving another man.) Just as she does with her primary lovers, Ms. Mallery gives little to bolster the asserted attraction and feelings between Max and Denise.
The best couple in the book is that of Jo, the bar owner, and Will, an employee and friend of Tucker’s. While Ms. Mallery doesn’t bother to justify their attraction either, they are appealing people. That said, at one point in their trajectory, Will is such a jerk, I found it hard to continue to care about his happiness. Jo, I liked. She might be, along with Annabelle the librarian, the only person in the novel whom I can imagine existing and wanting to talk to. Everyone else in Fool’s Gold — especially Nevada’s syrupy sisters Dakota and Montana (the three are triplets) — is welcome to stay there. I plan never to visit again.
I’m sure there are those who love this series and thus will love this book. I am not one of them. I feel about Only His the same way I feel about the giant metal vagina. It’s not witty and it’s not art. It’s not even fun.