Adriana Locke’s cozy Tangle is a continuation of her Dogwood Lane series of small town romances. And ‘cozy’ is the best way to describe it – though the hero will give the reader occasional pause.
Haley Raynor is having a terrible morning. She might be on the cusp of losing her job to budget cuts, her ex is bird-dogging her and all she wants is something sugary sweet from her best friend Claire’s café, but she has competition; the last of her favorite kind of doughnut has been claimed by a tall, handsome man. As they banter, Haley realizes that her fresh start just might be standing in front of her in the form of Trevor Kelly.
CFO of Kelly Construction, Trevor is only in town for the wedding of his father to a woman neither he nor his brother can stand. He’s also helping his dad construct Meredith’s dream home, complete with poodle spa and overpriced stained glass windows, as a wedding gift. Trevor’s immediately attracted to Haley, but is fresh off a friends-with-benefits relationship that ended in a quasi stalking incident, and on top of that doesn’t believe that love is real. He doesn’t want anything serious, but Haley keeps getting in his way.
Haley ultimately asks Trevor for help rewriting her resume. He agrees, and as Haley searches for a new job and Trevor deals with his father’s wedding, he and Haley make a deal. They’ll hang out together – with no sex and no touching – for one week, but when the wedding is over, so is their connection. Naturally – since this is a romance novel – things end up being much more complicated than that, and they both begin to fall for one another. But when the house is completed, will Trevor stick around?
Tangle will work fairly well for folks who like banter-heavy romance, although unfortunately, that banter kerned a little too strongly toward immaturity to resonate fully with me.
Haley sometimes comes off as childish, but in general I liked her sparkly, tough attitude. She sticks to her guns and principles, and for that I admired her.
Trevor, sadly, is one of those self-wounding heroes beating himself to death over a long-ago transgression. His immaturity runs rampant – liking Haley when she isn’t “trying to one-up him”; mistrusting his stepmother-to-be’s intentions with his dad and being a bit snide about her poodle obsession for half the book; martyring himself when it comes to women and otherwise thinking his string of ugly relationships happened because “(maybe) his dick makes women crazy” (which is a cringe-inducing thing to complain about when his Deep Dark Secret is exposed). He doesn’t need women hanging all over him, as he tells himself over and over again. Except he definitely needs to fuck them, naturally. It takes pages and pages of dickish behavior for his truer and softer side to emerge. For the reader this might end up being an endurance test.
While the verbal sparring between Haley and Trevor is amusing, and eventually feels natural and charming, it takes them a long, long time to emerge from a level of juvenile and childish banter that is beneath them and graduate to a better and more snappy repartee. When they do it’s wonderful, but until that time it’s a marathon of childish bouncing up and down (literally) and taunting each other.
On the positive side, however, the general craft of the writing is off the charts excellent, which is one of the main reasons the novel gets a recommendation.
There are some fine supporting characters. I loved Claire’s friendship with Haley and their friendship with Grace, I liked Trevor’s grandma, Lorene, and the reappearance of Neely and Dane, hero and heroine of book one, Tumble (though Haley’s obsession with figuring out if Neely was pregnant came off as creepy instead of charming).
Tangle is one of those books that I loved half the time. Some tightening during the editing process might have garnered it a higher grade, but at its good-enough current state it gets a good-enough recommendation.