Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Crazy Thing Called Love," By Molly O'Keefe

The Chick: Madelyn Cornish, a.k.a. Maddy Wilkins, a.k.a. Maddy Baumgarden. A popular daytime television host.
The Rub: When her show wants her to do a project with reviled hockey thug Billy Wilkins, she can't reveal that he used to be her husband without dredging up their painful history.
Dream Casting: Michelle Monaghan.

The Dude: Billy Wilkins. A violent, almost-washed-up hockey player who's lauded (and hated) for the fights he frequently starts on the ice.
The Rub: The opportunity to go on his ex-wife's show seems too good to be true - can he clean up his act and win her back?
Dream Casting: Jeremy Renner.

The Plot:

Billy: Violence solves everything! *starts hockey fight*

NHL: No it doesn't.

Maddy's show: Hey, want to do a makeover series?

Billy: Yay! Makeovers solve everything!


Surprise Niece and Nephew: Hey, our mother's dead and our aunt's abusive. Let's lie! Lying solves everything!


Maddy: I find your total incompetence with life suddenly relatable.

Billy: HOORAY!

Romance Convention Checklist:
  • 1 Pair of Reunited Exes
  • 2 Angsty Plot Moppets
  • 1 Evil TV Producer
  • 1 Swarm of Paparazzi
  • Several Flashbacks
The Word: It didn't take long for Molly O'Keefe to secure herself a spot as one of my favourite authors. Two books into her hockey-star (or hockey-star-adjacent) trilogy and I was hooked. Now we're onto the final book. Maddy Cornish, a daytime television host in Dallas, was a friend of the heroine from Can't Hurry Love, and freaked out when she ran into Billy Wilkins - a hockey friend of the hero of Can't Buy Me Love - at a party at the end of the last book.

Madelyn Cornish has spent the better part of a decade making a name for herself in daytime TV. She built her career from the ground up - losing weight, straightening her hair, and changing her name to distance herself as much as possible from her humiliating past.

Her humiliating past comes back to bite her in the ass when her show's producers suggest they do a "Makeover" segment on her show for Billy Wilkins, a washed-up hockey thug known more for his violence on the ice and time spent in the penalty box than his actual plays. The producers think the prospect of turning this burly, scarred toad into a burly, scarred prince could boost their ratings.

Unbeknownst to her employers, Maddy used to be Mrs. Billy Wilkins. She and Billy married extremely young, but Billy's exploding hockey career ended up sweeping all of Maddy's own emotions, goals, and ambitions under the rug in favour of Billy's. After a few miserable years of that, Maddy divorced him and fled with what little identity she had left. She's terrified that any resurgence of feelings towards Billy will destroy the independence she's gained.

Billy, meanwhile, has hit rock bottom. He's ruined his own reputation with his violent antics and now no one wants to play with him. The only light in his life is the miraculous opportunity to make things right with the only woman he's ever loved - his Maddy. Could he use this makeover to change himself into the husband she deserves?

Billy and Maddy make an interesting pair - Maddy's terrified of her feelings, while Billy is nothing but feelings - mostly rage and self-loathing. As Billy dives headfirst into the makeover segment in order to win his ex-wife back, he has to change how he sees himself (as someone worth loving rather than a human punching bag) in order to improve himself and impress Maddy. Meanwhile, Maddy has to learn how to love someone and invest in their life without sacrificing her own.

Of course, O'Keefe doesn't make this easy and drops a number of bombshell plot lines that force our couple through the emotional wringer in a number of delicious ways, slathering on the angst and the high drama with skill and gusto. The reason I continue to gobble up her books like catnip even as I lose patience with other romance writers is because of her continued commitment to meticulously-developed characters. With her gorgeous turns of phrase, she give her protagonists colourful inner lives that reveal their neuroses and fears without becoming boring and navel-gazey. So when melodramatic things happen, I find myself turning the pages faster and faster because I need to know how her characters will react.

Crazy Thing Called Love is no different. A marvellous addition to Molly O'Keefe's growing canon.

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