Wanting What You Get
Kathy Love’s first book, Getting What You Want, was a delightful surprise and one of the best contemporary romances I have read this year. I eagerly awaited her next book, Wanting What You Get, and went to three bookstores to find it. When I got my copy, I sat down and read it straight through. It didn’t take too long before I got a sinking feeling that just kept getting worse and worse. This book is my biggest reading disappointment of 2004.
When Ellie Stepp and her sisters were in school, they were the school goats, taunted as the “Ugly Stepp Sisters.” Ellie was small, plump, shy and unathletic, constantly derided by her classmates. Ellie is still small, plump, and shy. She’s the town librarian, reads romance novels, and hides her curvy figure behind baggy clothes. For years she has had a crush on Mason Sweet, former town golden boy and now its mayor.
Mason and Ellie are best man and maid of honor at Abby and Chase’s wedding (see Getting What You Want for details). At the wedding they talk and dance and sparks begin to fly between them. One of the local good old boys wants the city council to take twenty thousand dollars from the library budget and use it to put in a new football field. Abby goes to Mason to ask about this, and Mason (who has been drinking) says he’ll side with the library if she’ll sleep with him. Ellie is surprised, but as she thinks it over, she decides she will. When she goes to tell Mason, he is shocked since he hardly remembers making the offer. The sparks between them are still there though, and they do become lovers. Soon they run into more than their share of problems.
Where to begin? Ellie was a terribly stereotyped heroine, and while Mason was much better as a character, he couldn’t save this book all by himself. In the end, Wanting What You Get reminded me of a mediocre series romance expanded and complete with all of the clichés series romances are prone to trot out:
- Ellie is a librarian and wears frumpy clothes. Of course all librarians in romance land are frumpy (but beautiful once they get some nice clothes.)
- Ellie is thirty and lives in a small town. Is she a virgin…do cats go meow?
- Ellie and Mason have one incident of unprotected sex. Does she get pregnant…do I even have to ask that question?!
- Ellie’s library is threatened by an eeevil bigwig in the community who only exists as a spur to get Ellie and Mason together. Then he conveniently disappears until the last couple of pages where he gets defeated and goodness and virtue triumph.
I wanted to like Ellie, but she was so unrealistic – a cross between Pollyanna and a doormat. She’s cheerful and optimistic by nature, both wonderful traits, but seemingly can’t stand up to anyone. When the library is threatened, rather than rally the board (she is the head librarian) she runs to Mason. Then when he tells her he’ll back the library if she sleeps with him she shows no spine at all. Hello Ellie, ever heard of sexual harassment? Ellie must never have heard of alcoholism either since it isn’t until well after page 200 that she finally realizes that Mason has a drinking problem despite all the evidence that’s right in front of her. He drinks practically every time he’s with her and even passes out one night in her bed. He suffers memory lapses and sometimes breaks into her house! Even though they kiss – and I mean kiss – she can’t tell the man is drinking? Clearly she has no sense of taste or smell.
Mason is a more believable character than Ellie and his reasons for drinking do ring true. He never was good enough for his perfectionist father, and his socially ambitious wife divorced him when he made it clear that he was very happy being the mayor of a small town and had no desire to serve in the Senate. He remains in denial for a long time but eventually realizes his drinking problem. The scene detailing this realization is moving and powerful, as is the scene where he confesses his love for Ellie at a local AA meeting. Unfortunately that scene is ruined because Ellie snoops in on the meeting. It’s being held in a library meeting room, and she turns on the room intercom in the room to eavesdrop. I though that was quite unethical of her.
I’ll chalk this book up as a major disappointment. I can still recommend Kathy Love’s first book wholeheartedly, and I do plan to get her next book, which is about the youngest of the Stepp sisters. I’ve found that many times the middle book of a trilogy is the weakest, and I hope that was the case here.