25 May, 2012
Review: Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas
As much as I loved Christmas Eve At Friday Harbor I disliked Rainshadow Road. If this were a debut book I'd probably like it more. I'd say the author shows promise. I'd say it was flawed but likeable. As a new work by Lisa Kleypas, I have to go with Oh Hell No. While maintaining the early Loveswept vibe of her first Friday Harbor novel Kleypas has decide to take a giant leap into the paranormal pond for no apparent reason at all. It doesn't serve the story. Look, to explain why we are going to have to spoil most of Rainshadow Road. If you're planning on reading it stop here and come back when you're done. I'll wait. It's a blog, there's no time limit.
Spoiling on - our heroine has a dysfunctional relationship with her sibling after a health scare causes her parents to stop using their brains and enable her younger sister for the rest of eternity. Young Lucy discovers that when in the grip of strong emotion (Carrie) she can transform glass into something living and beautiful. No scorpions or boa constrictors for our delicate heroine - the wrongs of her life are reshaped into birds and butterflies. So, of course, she goes into glasswork for a living. After all, there's nothing like dropping thousands of dollars into materials and watching it fly out the door during a mood swing. Except that doesn't happen. Lucy's glass-ventures are relegated to minor events and disposable items. She loses a drinking glass here and there, orgasms require new window panes as they flutter into the sky. (Talk about wondering if it's worth the work. No thunderstorm sex for her.) Lucy has a few magic realism dreams and she makes a window that changes with her moods. That's pretty much it. Her glass abilities do nothing to advance the plot beyond the dream giving her a reason to be further entwined with our local winemaker, Sam.
We know Sam from the last book. Now he talks to plants and heals withered ones with a brush of his fingers. He doesn't make a vine forest, have plants shoot needles into foes or do anything interesting. The only reason he has a magical ability is so he can bond with Lucy and believe her crazy story about the magic window dream. He has a withered transplanted vine in the garden that won't bloom until - well, let's leave some mystery. (You already know, right?) OK! So if you remove all of the magic from the book you're left with an underdeveloped plot that could have been omgsogood if it wasn't for the time wasted. One of Sam's brothers is heading for the altar. The other is recently divorced and diving into a bottle. Because of his dysfunctional past Sam is all about not actually sleeping with women (so tired of that one) and only having casual sex. He chases Lucy like a dog chases cars and has the same reaction to catching her.
Lucy has a live in boyfriend that quickly reveals himself to be sleeping with her sister, Alice. Without getting into whose name is on the lease territory, Kevin (the cad) informs her that Alice is moving in so she has to get out. Lucy goes for a long bike ride and a good cry, where she briefly meets Sam. She will continue to briefly meet Sam until she ends up living with him in the worst case of plot convolution I've seen in a good long while. Lucy moves into a boarding house. She is good friends with the owners and their biker gang buddies. (She created a special window for the Biker Church.) Lucy gets in car accident and breaks her leg. (Here I need to disclose recent personal experience with an injury very like Lucy's, except I detached my foot from my ankle because I am gangster like that.) Of course she will go to Sam's house to recover, this man she has met twice. She can't return to her actual home because the owners are too busy to help. She can't fly her parents in because that would be... logical? Despite having been hit by a car neither her insurance nor the inevitable lawsuit appear to extend to in home care. She can't take the biker gang's offer of assistance because Sam hates the very thought of it. Repeatedly. For no reason. Vintage Schwinn bikers = good. Motorized bikers = bad. Even though the bikers have protected her in a bar, fixed her car and otherwise been good to her, Sam commands her to not even consider their help and takes her home. Again, for no apparent reason but that the plot demands proximity. There is a lot of this. Kevin asks Sam to date Lucy for no reason other than the opportunity for Sam to demonstrate his honesty and Lucy to later brag on it. Things happen for reasons that have nothing to do with probable real world human reactions and everything to do with the demands of the inorganic plot.
Further annoying me is the way the broken leg is handled. Having just spent a fair amount of time doing things like crying on the floor in frustration over my inability to swing my leg into my walk in shower stall, I found Lucy's mobility (and libido) completely ridiculous. Sam carries her about like she's a handbag without any strain on him or pain for her. That's not how it goes. Lucy has no daily physical therapy. She has a fairly normal life except for being couch bound and carried up or down stairs (!) by Sam the wonder man. Her showers are conducted by sitting on a plastic stool (no stopping at the medical supply store) after Sam wraps her leg in plastic. There's no leaking, no itching, no swelling or other daily concerns of a serious injury. The jostling of everyday life means an adjustment in her ice packs instead of a throbbing discomfort that damages her ability to think. When they eventually have sex it doesn't even slow her roll. Heck, Sam even gets her a new bike a few short months (weeks?) later. (Good luck flexing for the peddle without some PT, Lucy.) My ability to suspend belief took a complete hike.
Lucy is the kind of heroine you want to climb off the cross already, and Sam is the sort who never met a hair shirt he couldn't don. They will probably be very happy together but I couldn't root for them. There was no developed conflict, no true stakes. They fell in love because they were both single. They spent time together so we could have a book. This is a love story with zero calories and all the pages of the books you love!