Sweethearts of the Twilight Lanes
This book was about as difficult to grade as any I’ve read. While the humor and characters made me want to grant it DIK status, it failed to plumb any sort of real emotional depths, and the plot had some problems, although it was certainly original and interesting enough to keep me turning pages. Likewise, the sensuality rating was hard to pinpoint: the majority of the book suggests a “hot” rating, while the single sex scene suddenly switches to strictly “subtle” without warning. It made me feel as if the book were suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder, and I was left feeling a little lost as a result.
However, there was enough that I liked about this book to warrant a B. If I hadn’t been reading it as a romance, it would have worked reasonably well; it’s funny, well-paced and sweet, with only a few minor plot problems. Well, that and the speech thing. I’m not sure I can truly feel for a hero who says “good gosh-almighty” on a regular basis, but that may be a regional thing. Still, there were enough “sugars” and “honeys” to make me want to brush my teeth between chapters.
The plot centers not so much around the couple as around the foursome known as the SuiteHearts, a group of girls who grew up together as friends in Mount Circe, Georgia, and went on to share a suite together at Lassiter College, where they swore eternal friendship. Fourteen years later, all but one of them are still living in town, and the fourth soon returns. It quickly becomes clear that the sisterhood revolves around our heroine, “Queen” Tess Redding, who has single-handedly revitalized the town with her magazine, Simply Southern, and is happiest, as her title suggests, managing everything for everyone.
Enter our hero, Flynn Garvey. His entire identity focuses around his illegitimacy. Driven by the need to find and confront his own father, he bides his time by tracking down dead-beat dads and moms who leave their own offspring. How could anyone dislike a guy like that? Not me. But perhaps my favorite moment in the entire book pertains to his own description of himself:
“Flynn was dirt. No, no, too easy on himself. He was the stuff dirt pointed to when it wanted to lift its self-esteem and said, ‘Yeah, I may be dirt but at least I’m not Flynn Garvey.'”
The story doesn’t really start, however, until the Suitehearts start receiving blackmail notes regarding their transgressions in college. Because the driving force behind this plot is Big Secrets. It’s somewhat frustrating that these secrets – including Tess’s – are never revealed to the reader until the end of the book, and even then, some are slightly unbelievable. What would push this book into A range for me is more, but more of the right thing. As it is, it feels as though there’s almost too much going on in the book, but it’s all so interesting I didn’t really mind. Still, I wished for more information, more romance, more explanation, more emotion – what I got was more action. As good as it was, more information and relationship-building would have made for a truly excellent novel Still, Ms. Jones makes a terrific debut with Sweethearts of the Twilight Lanes; she has a wonderful “voice” and her characters are enticing and fun. I can’t wait to see her grow into a great author. She’s already started.