Tuesday, May 03, 2011

"Tangled Up In Love," by Heidi Betts

The Chick: Veronica Chasen. When she needs to challenge Dylan Stone, a rival from another paper, she decides to bet that he can't learn how to knit in a month.
The Rub: She's on easy street until he comes knocking at her door with $1,000 asking her to tutor him in knitting. How can she resist his cash-- er, I mean his debonair charm?Dream Casting: Chyler Leigh.

The Dude:
Dylan Stone. A wannabe sportwriters in a mere columnist's job, he gets his kicks from teasing and challenging the hot writer from a rival paper - but she bets he can't knit an article of wearable clothing in a month, he knows he's in for a real challenge.
The Rub: He knows there's more to this girl than she lets on - if only she could teach him more than just how to pearl one, knit two.Dream Casting: Ryan Kwanten.

The Plot:

Veronica: I hate you for no good reason!

Dylan: Well, I hate you for no good reason MORE!

Meddlesome Old Bag Character: You should totally hook up! Let me get my magic spinning wheel!

Veronica and Dylan: NO.

Veronica's Meddlesome Friends: We should totally get our gal pal drunk and leave her with the man she's professed to hate! That will end well!

Veronica: WORST FRIENDS EVER. Oh well, guess we have to have lots of protracted sex scenes.

Dylan: Okay, then.

Boots: *are knocked*

Veronica: Hey, you're not such a bad guy.

Dylan: Hey, you're not such a bad gal MORE.

Veronica: Wow, and while we were hooking up, it's like all of our personal problems up and solved themselves!

Dylan: Convenient, that. Wanna hook up some more?

Veronica: Sure!

Dylan: HOORAY!

Romance Convention Checklist

Several Annoying Matchmaking Meddlers

1 Inexplicably Intense Professional Rivalry

1 Secret Boxcar Child Past

1 Magic Spinning Wheel

1 Skein of Magic Yarn

Several Untrustworthy Sequel-Baiting Friends

1 Strongly-Worded Ass Tattoo

The Word: Lord, save me from Meddling Matchmakers. I have many reasons to be grateful that my life is not a romance novel, and one of them is the fact that none of my relatives or friends are "inspired" to go to ridiculous, "comedic" lengths to put me in uncomfortable situations with a guy I'm genuinely angered or creeped out by, thanks to the delusional belief that if you complain about a guy enough, it must mean you secretly love him.

I hate the Meddling Matchmaker characters. They're one of my pet peeves in romance novels, these nosy, invasive people who treat the heroine's distaste/discomfort with the hero as if it's some cute little flaw, and stridently engineer situations in which the heroine is forced to spend time with the hero regardless of her opinions or feelings on the matter.

Such is the case here in Tangled Up in Love. Our protagonists, Veronica and Dylan, are columnists from different papers who have carried on a heated professional rivalry for years, ever since Dylan got the columnist job that Veronica believed she deserved. They haaaate each other, so it's a good thing their wa-ha-hacky friends know their own feelings better than they do!

This novel is weird for me - the plot itself isn't very high-conflict, so what conflict there is, is hyped up to such an extreme level as to seem almost ridiculous. Veronica and Dylan's rivalry plays out mostly in challenges and one-upsmanship in each other's columns - in one, Veronica dares Dylan to skydive, in another Dylan challenges Veronica to get a tattoo, etc. etc. But for some reason, they see each other in terms of actual hate and continually think the worst of each other for no real reason. Their rivalry is based on professional jealousy - Dylan got the job Veronica thought she deserved. Where do all these assumptions about Dylan's character flaws come from? To me, this doesn't make the heroine look sassy and feminist - it makes her look like a petty bitch constipated from eating too many sour grapes.

Anyway, Veronica is recovering from having her ass tramp-stamped thanks to another journalistic dare from Dylan and needs to come up with something she'll beat him at, and she decides to challenge Dylan to learn enough about knitting to have a completed project by the end of one month. Veronica, of course, has the home court advantage as she's a member of a knitting group of Meddling Matchmaking Sequel-Baiting Friends, headed by a Meddling Matchmaking Crazy Old Lady Mentor Figure.

When Dylan's first attempt at knitting fails spectacularly, he decides to bug Veronica at her knitting group, and their bickering is like blood in the water to all the Meddling Matchmakers in attendance. The Crazy Old Lady Mentor Figure decides to use her magic spinning wheel that has been in her family for generations and has been known to bring true love to people who wear its wool - I am not even kidding. I wish I was kidding, because this plot point is so completely irrelevant, useless and cutesy.

But at least it's not as bad as what the Sequel-Baiting Friends do - which is take Veronica to a bar, get her drunk, and intentionally abandon her so that she'll have to go home with Dylan. The guy she has repeatedly said she does not like and doesn't want to be around, regardless of the sexual attraction.


Of course, this leads to many scenes of humping (Dylan's ethical code is, "I don't do drunk girls" - unless a drunk girl asks him to), and while this doesn't change their attitudes towards each other very much, it does give them an incentive to get together more often. And somehow, in between the humping, their pillowtalk miraculously solves their long-held issues and problems - which, like the rest of this novel, are pretty low key and easily solvable but are blown up beyond their normal proportions.

For instance, thanks to an out-of-nowhere poverty past, Veronica is terrified of being left destitute so despite her successful job she hoards money and buys no-name products, will do almost anything for money, and is always on the lookout for a job that will bring in more cash. Oh, but one word of advice from Dylan to go and speak to an actual financial adviser and one tacked-on scene with her parents cures that pretty darn quick.

Also, Dylan's book-long angst about not having the job he really wants (as a sports writer) is solved in a face-palmingly easy fashion when Veronica reminds him that one of his Sequel Baiting BFFs is a famously press-shy hockey star. Yes, the heroine has to remind THE HERO of his own friends.

Honestly, while this novel isn't terrible, it's still lacklustre and annoying because the story sustains itself by making so many angst-mountains out of mere nuisance-molehills, and padding out the rest with ridiculously unnecessary and somewhat disturbing matchmaking antics. So this time, this novel gets a