The Trouble With Mary
I often complain about the “too good to be true” characters in most romances. In The Trouble With Mary the heroine is a college dropout who can’t zip her jeans, has a chocolate addiction, and leaves dirty dishes in the sink. And the hero has a Rolaids dependency. These are my people!
Mary’s trouble in the beginning is that she suffers from low self esteem, brought on in large part by her family’s less than supportive attitude; “The trouble with Mary” is how her mother begins most sentences. If not for the unexpected death of her boss, Mary may have wasted away in the same dead-end job, living at home, but the tragedy spurs her on to make some changes in her own life. She moves into her own apartment and starts her own restaraunt – Mama Sophia’s – to the great dismay of her family.
Assigned to review Mama Sophia’s is Dan Gallagher. Dan is a sportswriter, whose love of food is purely recreational. After he’s passed over for a promotion and handed the position of Food Editor, he’s unhappy. Worse, he hates Italian food, so his review of Mary’s restaurant is less than favorable.
When Mary goes to the Sun to confront Dan, he thinks she’s a dish. And she, beneath her anger, thinks he’s pretty cute too. They begin as adversaries, but that is resolved quickly. Mary warms to Dan and his eight year old son, Matt. One of Mary’s plans for her new life is to jettison her virginity and have a hot affair, and Dan fits the bill.
There is a lot to like about this story, and when I started it, I liked it very much. By the end however, I felt a little let down. First, I felt the conflict could have been stronger. Once Mary and Dan admit their feelings for each other, there’s no reason for them to be apart. Unlike many couples, they communicate with each other, maybe even too well. Without misunderstandings, Mary’s hesitancy to commit to Dan has no basis, it only serves to drag the story out a little longer. Also I wish there had been more emphasis on Mary’s foray into the restaurant business and less on her family, particular her mother, whom I found completely unpleasant.
On the other hand, Mary and Dan are likable, everyday people with struggles. As Mary gains self confidence, she is finally able to speak her mind and stand up for what she wants. Dan, once a happy bachelor, has to adjust to life with Matt and make compromises, including trading gourmet cuisine for pizza. It is also refreshing that Mary is the one reluctant to give up her independence and Dan is the one eager to settle down. In addition the stage is set for Mille Criswell’s next book, about Annie, Mary’s vampy best friend, and Joe, Mary’s brother, who at the end of the book is preparing to leave the priesthood. How’s that for intriguing?
If you are in the mood for a lighthearted romance with an eccentric supporting cast, The Trouble With Mary is a good choice. What To Do About Annie, is eagerly anticipated. I just hope Mama Sophia lightens up a bit in that one.