With a Twist
I went back-and-forth with Deirdre Martin’s With A Twist almost the entire time I was reading it. Every time things started looking dire for the book, the author managed to turn them around. However, the ending just failed to redeem the book as a whole.
Natalie Bocuse is a classy French lady who lives in Brooklyn, waitressing at her sister’s bistro. She’s always dreamed of living in Manhattan and managing a restaurant, though, so when she gets the opportunity to live in the city, she jumps on it – even if it means working at an Irish pub owned by the parents of Quinn O’Brien, a reporter who comes to the bistro sometimes and loves to annoy her. So, despite her feelings of superiority and her dislike of potatoes, she works at the working class Irish pub while trying to find a management job. Meanwhile, Quinn has always had a bit of a crush on her – and when he begins pursuing her in earnest, she can’t resist.
Quinn loves his job – loves it. So when a new editor-in-chief takes over his newspaper and starts turning it into a gossip rag, he’s pissed. He’s gotten his teeth into a potentially big story, involving the Irish mob in his neighborhood, and he’s in deep and won’t let it go, even though it means blowing Natalie off and leaving in the middle of their dates to go pursue a lead. He loves her, and she loves him, but he’s never been able to have a serious relationship because his work always interferes and his girlfriends start demanding more than he can give. Quinn and Natalie both hope that she’s different, but as the cycle begins to repeat itself, Natalie begins to wonder if maybe she’s just another girl who will always play second fiddle to Quinn’s work.
As I mentioned, I went back and forth with this story. At first, it seemed like a classic (and superficial) “opposites attract” story, pairing the workingman-son-of-Irish-immigrants with the high-class French woman who love to tease and provoke each other. I was afraid the author would leave it at that, and that I would be left with serious doubts about their HEA. However, both of the characters began to get more depth, and they changed and started to fit together in a way that I hadn’t expected. I started to realize that the story was more about Quinn’s commitment to his work, and I began to wonder how it might be resolved.
The thing is, it didn’t get resolved. There was no evidence of Quinn changing, other than an epiphany – he loved Natalie and wanted her in his life, and would stop being so married to his job. And he’s serious this time, not like all the other times he told her that and made those promises that he didn’t keep. We didn’t see him change, nor did his circumstances change enough to allow another solution to the problem. I had no faith that he actually, suddenly, was able to let go of his work addiction and put Natalie first. It was just another cycle of their never-ending relationship ups and downs, not a conclusion. In a lot of ways, I seriously doubted Natalie’s judgment in this book for taking him at his word.
That said, I did like Quinn and Natalie as individual characters. Though I wasn’t attached to them at first, I later began to see more complexity in them and started to feel more connected. The author did do a good job in adding depth as the story unfolded. Natalie did feed into a pet peeve of mine, though: non-English speaking characters who occasionally throw in a word or two of their native language to remind the readers that they’re not American. I know a fair amount of people for whom English is their second language, like it is for Natalie, and they don’t randomly throw in a single French word (or Spanish or Japanese or Vietnamese word – whichever their original language is) when they’re talking. It irritates me when this happens in books, because it feels inauthentic. There were a few other ‘French’ things that she does, or attitudes she has, that sort of annoyed me; it all just felt very contrived.
There’s a great cast of side characters who add some comic relief to the story; every Irish pub needs its borderline certifiable regulars, and every immigrant family in Romanceland apparently needs to be close-knit and boisterous. I liked them, even if they felt a bit archetypal at times. Some of the assorted family members are former protagonists of other books, and others appear to be future ones.
If it weren’t for the (lack of) conclusion of the story, the grade would have been a full letter higher; unfortunately, an ending that leaves me in serious doubts about a couple’s HEA weights pretty heavily against the good aspects of With a Twist, like its enjoyable characters and an interesting plot.