Three Little Words
I think that Three Little Words was a book with a lot of potential that was damaged by poor pacing and a lackluster hero. The book started on such a promising note. I love stories of people who are reunited that have a failed relationship in their past or awkward encounter. So, when Isabel walked in to confront Ford about how she was in love with him at the age of fourteen, I was excited. Sadly, the story that followed didn’t live up.
Isabel has moved her home in New York to work in her family’s bridal store while she saves up money to open her own business in the city. During her sojourn back in Fool’s Gold, she is living in her parent’s home. Conveniently, her teenage crush, Ford, is renting her parent’s guesthouse. When Isabel was only fourteen, Ford dated her older sister, who cheated on him. Isabel was outraged that her sister would ever cheat on a total stud like Ford and developed a huge infatuation with him. When Ford left to join the Navy, Isabel sent him countless love letters, even though he never wrote back. Now that they are living in close quarters, Isabel wants to make sure there is no lingering awkwardness over her teenage declarations of love for him.
This was about where the story lost me. I would have liked a little more uneasiness between Ford and Isabel. She wrote him letters for roughly ten years about private things and promised to love him forever. He lets it be known almost instantly that he received them, enjoyed reading them, but just didn’t think it would be appropriate to write back, given her young age. The initial premise for the connection between the pair dissolved when this was discussed within the first chapter.
Since Ford left the Navy SEALs and returned to Fool’s Gold, his mother has been desperate to see him settled down. So desperate, in fact, that she was taking girlfriend applications for him. To appease her, Ford asks Isabel to pose as his fake girlfriend. This came across as one of the most forced concepts I’ve read in a romance in a long time. First of all, Ford is so egotistical that I couldn’t stand him. Everything out of his mouth is about how he is God’s gift to women and how he is so talented at everything. If he is so gorgeous and mind-blowing in bed, why can’t he find a woman to actually date? Well, that is explained by the fact that he thinks he’s incapable of falling in love. There’s no real justification for that idea. He just hasn’t been in love and has decided he won’t ever be, so he needs a pretend girlfriend. The plan seems to hinge around the fact that Isabel is planning to return to New York, and thus end their ruse.
Now, I can handle a story where the couple is thrown together through some sort of fake relationship, like a marriage of convenience, so long as their real affection builds over time. With Ford and Isabel, that really isn’t the case. There is no awkwardness over her youthful feelings for him, no tension over their arrangement, nothing of interest at all really. Instead, the two hang out as friends from the very beginning. They also start sleeping together with very little pretense. Once they were attending estate sales and hopping into bed together, I wasn’t really sure how they were still engaged in a “fake” relationship. Maybe if the pacing for their interactions had been such that there was some actual tension between the characters, this device might have worked. Instead, there really wasn’t any question of whether the characters would end up together.
I also couldn’t get on board with the fact that Ford basically had to be talked into loving Isabel. You shouldn’t have to have a random friend spend several pages convincing the hero to love his pretend girlfriend at the end of the novel. It feels too forced. I really needed to see him fall for her over time, even if it only hit him at the end. Sadly, that wasn’t the case here. I also got annoyed with how every aspect of Ford’s personality was contributed to his time in the Navy. I think his time in the service was mentioned in every scene, at least once. Seriously, even the fact that he carried a condom on their date was because he was a SEAL. It got to be a bit over the top.
The saving grace for this book that kept it for a truly abysmal rating was the secondary characters. There is a love story between Ford’s coworker Consuelo and his brother Kent that is very sweet. I preferred Kent and Consuelo to Isabel and Ford by a long shot. I think the book would have been better had it been focused on those two, rather than the actual leads.
Ford and Isabel actually got very little page time together. At least half the book was spent with Kent and Consuelo or scenes where Isabel or Ford were hanging out with friends. For those that are big fans of the Fool’s Gold series, you’ll enjoy that there is a lot of time spent with characters from previous books and catching up on their lives. Maybe it takes having grown attached to Ford and Isabel from their minor roles in the previous books in order to enjoy Three Little Words. I haven’t read the earlier books, so that could have lessened my enjoyment of this installment.
I think that Susan Mallery is a talented storyteller, however Three Little Words was a miss for me. I needed more scenes between the leads, more tension or suspense, or more time with Consuelo and Kent. Sadly, none of those things happened so I would not recommend this read.