Two Brothers and a Bride
You know you’re in trouble when the question posed on the cover of a book, in this instance, “Would the small-town diner waitress choose the millionaire or the black-sheep brother?”, is the book’s highlight. Black sheep brothers are among my weaknesses, and while the story and characters showed some promise, both became mired in a convenient and clichéd plot.
Joleen Wheeler and Jake Landon are brought together by Joleen’s fiancé, Carl, who is also Jake’s brother. Carl has appointed Jake to fetch Joleen to the Landon home for the summer. Although it is never made clear why Jake, a veterinarian, is at the family home, it has something to do with getting his confidence back after losing a patient. And, why Jake is considered a black sheep when he had made something of himself is also unclear.
Carl, it would seem, is something of a cad – he is off on a junket with another woman. He is also (oh-so-conveniently) out of the picture for most of the book. His plan is for Joleen to be so envious of how high-on-the-hog the Landons live that she will be convinced marrying him is what she really wants to do. Carl, you see, is an up-and-coming politician who thinks Joleen could be molded into a perfect political wife.
When Jake walks into the diner, Joleen is trying to convince herself that marrying Carl for financial security rather than love is the right thing to do. She takes one look at Jake, is smitten, and vice versa. While two brothers and one woman can make up a perfect romance triangle, in this instance Carl was nothing but a weakly contrived excuse to bring Joleen and Jake together. He reminded me of Charlie Brown’s mother. She wasn’t really a person, she just squawked.
Joleen initially seems to be interesting, but soon became a one-note character. Once they start their road trip to Dallas, nearly all their conversations center around Joleen constantly asking Jake if he thinks she’s making a mistake marrying Carl. I don’t know how he stood it, but, alas, love is most assuredly blind.
Their chemistry was, in a word, blah, and consisted of about two uninspiring kissing sessions. There was also this weird voyeuristic-like scene in which Jake and Joleen secretly watch each other and ponder their feelings for each other. In my opinion, they spend too many pages watching each other through windows when they could have been doing something interesting.
One night, acting in Carl’s stead, Jake takes Joleen to a high-society function. Joleen can’t stand seeing Jake surrounded by a bevy of skinny Texas debutantes. She hails a cab and ends up at some hole-in-the-wall joint and gets a little tipsy while conversing with the regulars. Too conveniently in a town the size of Dallas, Jake shows up at the same place. They dance a bit and he drives her home. They arrive home to find out one of Jake’s favorite mares has come down with a life-threatening case of colic. This apparently was to be the big bonding scene for Jake and Joleen. They stayed up all night (without even changing out of their glamorous evening attire) to save the ailing horse, but that’s all they did. Maybe I have been conditioned by reading too many romances to expect a little more in situations like this, but I felt something was missing here. Still, no one was more relieved than I when the horse “passed the impaction” and the scene was over. I’m really not that keen on reading about anyone – animal or human – passing any sort of an impaction. I mean, come on, this is a romance.
The book’s ending was paint by numbers. Carl makes his first appearance, Joleen bids him farewell, then high tails it out of town without giving Jake a chance to do or say a thing. Jake sulks and lets her go until he comes to his senses, yada, yada, yada. I was left wondering where was the romance?