I received this book, Danger, Sweetheart by MaryJanice Davidson through a Goodreads Giveaway that I entered, and when I entered to win the contest, I had such high hopes for this book. The summary sounded very intriguing and unlike anything I’d ever read—a country-style romance. It sounded light and fluffy and something that would distract me from schoolwork.
However, this book didn’t fit the original description. Instead of being a light and fluffy contemporary romance, it’s almost a parody of sorts. Author MJD admitted in her author’s note at the very beginning that she was going to fit all the romantic tropes known to man into her story, and doing so, she not only made the story corny and unenjoyable, but also sort of a slap in the face toward all the romance novels that do use these tropes to tell an amazing story.
The premise of the story lets readers believe that the novel will follow Blake Tarbell, a city-living, rich guy who is forced to return to his mother’s hometown to save the town from becoming destroyed. Because he’s used to the life of luxury, being forced into a small-town where he’s forced to work on a farm is something he’s dreading. However, while working on the farm, he meets Natalie Lane, who isn’t afraid to get dirty and get the job done. And while at first she resists his advances, eventually, a romance follows.
While the novel did follow this basic outline, it was nothing like I was hoping or expecting. Because I had such trouble with my thoughts about this book, I made a list of pros and cons to describe my agony.
- Accurate depiction of small town life. I live in a relatively small town, even if it isn’t as small as Sweetheart. MJD described the small town well, and that was one facet of the novel I could actually find myself relating to.
- After a while, the characters grew on me and became more likable. In the beginning, I was struggling to connect with any of the characters, and though throughout the novel I failed to grow to love the characters, I found them at least likable.
- There were some aspects of humor. People have been raving about the humor in this novel, but I haven’t been able to see that much of it. However, there were some aspects of humor, and I could appreciate that.
- MJD let you know in the author’s note before the novel officially began that it was going to be filled with romance tropes, so if you bothered to read the author’s note, you were forewarned about what was going to occur.
- The ending—that is where the story started to pick up, for me, and things started falling into place and making a bit more sense, though not much. There was the “happily-ever-after” that we all know and love, and honestly, it was the best part of the book, in my opinion.
- It was an overall quick read.
- The author often inserts her commentary into the story. Since this is an ARC, I’m not sure if that is going to be taken out during the actual publication of the novel, but nevertheless, I found it quite jarring. It seemed a bit unnecessary and often took my focus away from the storyline.
- Often times, in the middle of a paragraph, there would be chunks of italicized sections in parenthesis, either to show a character’s thoughts, to flash back to the past, or to further explain something. These kind of became difficult to read because while some of them were short enough that they didn’t fully distract me from the original text, often times they were long passages in between the narrative, and I would have to go back and reread things. Not a huge problem, but it’s something I’ve never encountered before, and for me, it just didn’t work.
- It was extremely difficult to get into the storyline. It seemed as though everything jumbled together, and the author rambled on and on. I wasn’t sure if that was on purpose or not, but it was jarring and made the story hard to follow. So much so that by the end of the novel, I still didn’t have a complete grasp of what was going on.
- I couldn’t connect to the characters. No matter how hard I tried, they just weren’t characters that I particularly enjoyed reading about. Sure, I liked them, but I never found myself dying to know what happened to them. Even though it was told in third person point of view, whenever the point of view switched from Natalie to Blake, it was difficult to distinguish between the two characters. They were, essentially, the same person, except for one was a female and the other a male. Also, Natalie acted unbelievably immature for her age, even though MJD never told us what it was.
- Even though the book was supposed to be filled with all the romance tropes, and even though it wasn’t supposed to be mean, as the author said in her author’s note, it still felt a bit mean and satirical—almost like a parody. It didn’t come across as cute and fluffy—it almost seemed as though MJD was making fun of every other author who uses these romance tropes in their books. There were so many romantic tropes that the story was a bit overwhelming. Though I understood where MJD was coming from when writing this, it was too much, and it was difficult to stomach. The tropes made my reading experience incredibly awkward, something I never like while reading.
- I was left with so many questions that were never actually answered, such as: What did Blake do before he left Vegas for Sweetheart? Did he quit his job to come work on the farm? Did he even have a job since he and his brother and his mother inherited everything from his father? Why did his mother need him to go to Sweetheart, or why didn’t she? What’s the point of the novel? What did Blake’s mom even need help with in Sweetheart? Why does Blake’s mom even care about Sweetheart when the town abandoned her when she got pregnant outside of marriage?
- The men in this novel giggled way too much, as did Natalie. I know women giggling is a romantic trope (or at least the novel said as much), but men giggling? Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt when reading that the men were giggling.
- Repetition. This novel included so many things that were repetitive. The one thing that grated my nerves was the following sentence: “…because Rake is terrible.” (Rake is Blake’s twin brother). Why is Rake terrible? I never understood. To me, Rake seemed like a typical, twenty-something man. If you cut out how many times this was in the novel, it would be pages shorter, probably.
Like I said, the book was nothing what I hoped for. Maybe other people will enjoy it more than I did, but for me, it didn’t meet my expectations. 2.5 stars, unfortunately.