Are you tired of sappy, unrealistic, small-town romance? You won’t find those issues in Shannon Richard’s Undone. When Paige loses everything and has to move back in with her parents, she relocates to the small town they chose for retirement, where the people are hateful, weird, or just unfriendly.
Unable to find a job, and met with derision or suspicion by her parents’ friends and neighbors, Paige feels that she’ll never fit into her new environment. Her last hope of a decent job goes down the drain when it’s made clear that the interview she attended for that job was nothing more than a mean trick. Of course her Jeep breaks down on the way home, leaving her stranded miles from anywhere – with no cell service and in inches-high heels. When she finally reaches a little store out in the boonies, the first thing she does is pick up and then drop a vial of reeking deer urine. As she waits for the mechanic to arrive, Paige has no idea that the events of the day have changed her life for the better.
When the mechanic, Brendan, arrives, he and Paige strike sparks off of each other. They’re both attracted, but she’s angry and frustrated and Brendan is no one’s whipping boy. He listens to her tale of woe with sympathy, and they discover a common enemy in Bethelda, the woman who made Paige interview for a job that was already taken. Brendan knows how it feels to be an outsider, so he makes Paige his special project. She needs a job? He finds her one. She needs friends? He shares his. From there a sweet romance blossoms.
I very much enjoyed how “real” the author made the characters and plot. For instance, Brendan wants to see more of Paige but can’t think of an excuse that won’t make him seem “lame”. He’s just about to give in and go see her at work, no matter how lame, when his dignity is saved by a flat tire. When Paige and Brendan start seeing each other, the romance grows normally, progressing from kissing to lovemaking, the latter being a big decision on the heroine’s part. How refreshing.
The job that Brendan gets Paige? It’s in a funeral home, where her co-workers don’t exactly embrace Paige with open arms. In so many less-well-done contemporary romances, the scenario is predictable. The heroine somehow fits right in and in a couple of days she and her co-workers are sharing clothes and going out for drinks together. That’s not how it works in real life and it’s not how it is written here. Paige works with one woman who resents her on principle, while another is suspicious that Paige is trying to take her job. Both make Paige’s life difficult. Just like any normal real-life work situation, there are people who appreciate Paige and some who don’t. Again, how refreshing.
Undone is refreshingly well-written as well. The plot just flows along while you’re enjoying real-life people doing real-life things and having real-life problems, with nary a grammar bump or bad dialog pothole. The love scenes are warm, and Richard captures the awkwardness and humor of those first encounters.
While I enjoyed the book very much, I did have a quibble with two things. First, the author adds an (I felt) unnecessary big mis near the end that felt more like a way to add pages than any relevant addition to the plot. Also, the villain is cruel and spiteful to both Brendan and Paige, and I was left wondering – why? There is no clear motivation. Her actions were believable, but without being given a reason for them I felt a little left out.
Except for these (to me) forgivable issues, Undone is the closest to perfect contemporary romance I’ve read all year.