Saturday, December 4, 2010

Coming Undone by Susan Andersen **

Coming Undone (Marine #4)Coming Undone by Susan Andersen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW When I read this in print - the 4th in a series that I had really liked - I rated it 2 stars. I thought it seemed too forced, the reactions of the characters not realistic, PJ's character especially being obnoxious. But I got this audiobook free at the library, so I decided to give it a try, since I usually like Susan Andersen's writing. Nicole Poole as narrator gets a sort of B+ on this one from me. She managed to infuse some realism into the story and raise it to 3 stars - hearing it in her voice, rather than just in my head, smoothed some of the reactions. It still felt forced, and Andersen's use of similes in this book got old after the first 4 or 5 dozen. I get it, that's supposed to be how southerners talk, right? (insert wry smile here)

Back to the narration: Poole was good, mostly, but she did have a few times where her pauses seemed to come in the wrong places, as if maybe she hadn't really read it before doing the recording and paused at the end of a page only to take back up on the next one. Her PJ voice was ok, her Jared voice pretty good, her Esme voice - well, minor character, so never mind; her Nell, Hank and Eddie voices all pretty mediocre - but consistent. She also narrated 2 of Rachel Gibson's Author Friends series, and I really liked her voice on those. Maybe she's better with better material!

My first read was in print, June, 2008. Here's that review:

Maybe I'm cursed. Maybe it's the moon.

I didn't much like Coming Undone. And I'm devastated to admit it.

Here I've been starting every one of my reviews of Andersen's books with Another Winner - but now, well, it ain't. And coming on the heels of my not much liking the latest Julia Quinn, it makes me question my very existence. Could it be me??

Coming Undone is the 4th installment in her Marine series, which was supposed to be a trilogy about these 3 former Marine buddies, Coop, Zach and John. Then Andersen decided to write the last one for John's brother-in-law Jared and his buddy PJ who appear in the third book.

I mentioned in that review that some time needed to go by because, after all, PJ was only 13 in that book. Andersen decided she could make it be 15 years that had passed, so the hero and heroine are fully grown up. Which makes it sometime in the future? Her note in the book admits she is using a known soap opera gimmick, where a child is born, then a year or so later, the child is a teenager.

She lost me at about page 20. First, we get a prologue putting Jared into the situation: PJ is now a country music star, and her recording company has hired Semper Fi Security to provide security for her on her upcoming tour. John, head of Semper Fi, chooses Jared to be the one. So now we know Jared is working for John, and that's about all we know.

Then we find PJ, who hasn't really disappeared as the tabloids are saying, but has just decided to take a road trip and hasn't checked in with anyone. PJ has just recently fired her manager - her no-good bitch of a mother - for embezzling, and the old lady is ratting her out to the press with a bunch of lies. I guess we're supposed to imagine the studio fell for the lies and that is why they hired Semper Fi, to keep PJ on the straight 'n' narrow. So, enter Jared. PJ is delighted to see him - it's been 15 years since their 2 week friendship on the streets of Denver, and they didn't keep up after that. Wait, wait, she's only delighted for a minute then she's pissed and the next thing you know, she's let the air out of his tires and split.


OK, wait: here is the assignment: per John, "Wild Wind Records retained us to find your old friend Priscilla Jayne." Then he says: "...mission is going to be two-fold. First to locate... Then to accompany her on her tour to make sure she doesn't disappear again."

So, yeah, it sounds like they don't trust her. But I guess we're supposed to remember how she just reacts off the cuff before thinking, like she did at 13. Or something.

Anyway, whatever the reasoning, I didn't follow it. She does everything possible to shake Jared off her trail. And so there's this immediate antagonism. And I just didn't buy it - I didn't buy the way she immediately jumped into his arms when they first met either. I didn't find either reaction reasonable or credible.

Basically, for the first half of the book, he tries to be reasonable and professional with her, and she does everything she can to get him away or in trouble or whatever. She tells a hotel manager he's a stalker. She convinces a bartender to have the bouncer throw him out of a bar where she performs. She lets her band members think he's a nuisance.

He spends a lot of his time reminding himself he's a glacier - and that includes after they finally decide to act on their attraction (attraction? didn't see it coming, did ya?). He's a big cold glacier who - damn him - insists on providing his women with multiple orgasms before succumbing to his own. What a jerk, huh? Well PJ thinks so - because he's so cold and calculating.

She should read Loving Evangeline by Linda Howard if she thinks Jared was cold and calculating. He doesn't begin to reach the level of that hero.

Let's see - I kept plodding onward, thinking maybe, just maybe, I'd get more invested in their story. Andersen does her "we-don't-know-whose-POV-we're-dealing-with" tactic (as well as her including-hyphenated-phrases-to-a-new-level device) to introduce a fanatic. This one's going to show PJ some old tyme religion if she doesn't straighten up. So just when Jared decides his work is done, we get a warning from the psycho, and his job changes from watchdog to protector.

Then, let's see, yada yada yada, blah blah blah, oh yeah, the secondary romance. We have to out an ugly duckling. Nell is a song-writer/manager. They sure seem to have a tiny little crew - 2 musicians, Nell and PJ are it (oh and the bus driver). It seemed inadequate, using my theater background for comparison. Anyway, Nell is not thin, doesn't wear makeup and dresses blandly. And she has a crush on 1 of the 2 musicians. Of course, duh, he (Eddie) only dates young bimbos, and the other musician (Hank) is the one with the hots for her. So - let's take Nell shopping, and let's get her some better clothes and makeup so someone will notice her.

To be honest, I wanted Jared to make a sort of play for Nell. He did compliment her but maybe PJ would have been a leeeetle bit more aware if... OK, so Andersen didn't play the jealousy card. But I needed something to get me interested. Now we have our swan Nell - and Eddie asks her if she lost weight. This crushes the life out of her crush - meanwhile Hank is bowled over. One thing eventually leads to another and Hank and Nell finally get hot and heavy. Just to be sure, later in the story Eddie almost sees the light, asks her out and she turns him down. OK, whew, got that outta our systems, huh?

OK, where was I? Oh yeah. I gave up and went to bed, thinking maybe if I finished it today I'd be happier. The stalker is finally revealed through some sloppy PI work - really, Jared, what took you so long? And he makes a move at the one time Jared lets down his guard. Jared manages to rush in at the last minute, and in her frenzy PJ tells him she loves him.

Whoa. (like we didn't all expect this, even if there wasn't quite enough evidence to actually say we saw it coming). That brings his guard up. OH NO MR BILL! Jared can't trust anyone but the Marines and his family!! And especially not PJ who left him without a trace after their 2-week ordeal 15 years ago when she was 13!!!

And on top of all this inanery, what in the world does this phrase in the epilogue mean: "a brunette with pale skin, red lipstick and a striking white streak in her black hair" Hello - is she brunette "a person with dark (brown) hair" or is her hair black? (it's Ronnie, from Book 1, of course - it's black). Arg.

OK look, I can't give it 2 stars. Really, I just can't - can I? Because, I mean, maybe it's ME. Maybe it's because I bought it full price instead of swapping it on PBS. Maybe it's the phase of the moon (half). By the way, they both admit they love each other, and the epilogue is their wedding shower, in case there was any question of a HEA.

No comments: