The Beauty of Us
In The Beauty of Us, the fourth installment of Ms. Proby’s series about a dynamic group of friends running Seduction, an intentionally romantic restaurant in Portland, Oregon, a stranger comes to town. A tall, beautiful, male stranger who quickly becomes part of heroine Riley Gibson’s everyday life. Trevor Cooper is in town to shoot a documentary food show about the venture, but finds himself dreaming of forever more quickly than he ever thought possible. The conflicts in the story are largely external – a delusional ex-wife and distance being the primary ones – on their way to the happily ever after, but we get there delightfully in the end.
Riley bursts into Seduction one afternoon, venting to her pals about her horrible dating life. She’s been meeting guys online, largely because she’s too busy to do otherwise, but when she goes out with them, they turn out to be absolute duds. There’s a dude at the end of the bar who overhears and laughs a few times at some of Riley’s jokes, and before long they’ve struck up a rapport. There are a few small hiccups when Riley realizes she’s been flirting with the producer of the show that’s come to town to film them, but Through Plot Reasons he ends up proposing that he take her on a real date, to show her how gentlemen behave.
For this first half of the book, when the pair are falling in love, I was smitten. Completely and utterly smitten. Their chemistry is fantastic, the romance moves at a pace that feels authentic and they have conversations that are appropriate to the level of intimacy they’re at. There are minor squabbles, but no real drama, and I was convinced the two of them had what it takes to make it all work, even after Trevor leaves Portland to go back to LA.
However, as the narrative approached that happily ever after conclusion, I looked at my husband in dismay. “It’s all where I want it to be and it’s only 66% of the way through the book.” “Oh, that is not good,” he replied.
This juncture – Trevor’s departure – is where things went completely off the rails. Three elements conspire to create the ultimate break-up fight from which he must grovel his way back and I was annoyed by all three. One is an ex-wife who is very clearly a manipulative and hurtful cow, the second is another two-dimensional female in Trevor’s life who serves zero purpose except to cause an unnecessary roadblock, and the third is simple miscommunication blown totally out of proportion. I have limited patience for conflicts in relationships caused by ‘crazy women’, and to have two out of three in this case fall into that category set my teeth on edge. I was more than thrilled to emerge from that contrived wilderness to the conclusion, where Trevor and Riley begin to fully build their lives together and we are assured of their commitment from that moment forward.
I’m itching to get the next installment of the series – Ms. Proby drops a SUPER juicy bit of news in the final paragraphs about the next book – but I’m desperately hoping for a different form of conflict.
The Beauty of Us certainly works as a standalone tale, as this is my first foray into the world of Seduction and was far from lost in their relationships. However, it’s clear there is a richness here that I was missing by parachuting in and I’ve added the previous books to my library hold list so that I can get more backstory before the fifth book comes out. My final grade is entirely based on the frustrations I have outlined above, and not because of writing (the characters are rich and the dialogue sparkles). If you’re not so bothered by the contrived conflicts as I was, then you just may love this one.