Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson *****

A RE-READ ON AUDIO (notes at the end) FEB 2010 first read June 2008

Funny, I was reading Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens, but had to make a trip to town where I found Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson at Wal Mart. Then, on the way home, the van broke down and we had to wait 1.5 hours for AAA - so I picked up the Gibson book and couldn't put it down!

It sure was more fun to read than Devil's Bride has been so far...

Not Another Bad Date is the 4th in the Author Friends series. I've read books 2 (I'm In No Mood for Love) and 3 - (Tangled Up in You) and liked both a lot. The last author in the series is Adele - the one whose boyfriend Dwayne has become a semi-stalker, leaving bits and pieces of their lives together on her doorstep the past 3 years since they broke up. Apparently he was a great boyfriend until he suddenly told her she had a fat ass, and that abruptly ended the relationship.

And since then, every date she's gone on has been bad, bad, bad. Sometimes it will be good - right up to the door, and them WHAM-O he'll say something stupid, like the Fat Ass remark and it's over.

Now - to be perfectly honest - every time the Fat Ass thing was mentioned in Books 2 and 3 I thought, how shallow can this woman be? In fact, to be really, completely honest, it just dawned on me as I wrote the comment a couple of paragraphs above that it was part of a pattern. A pattern I just caught on to. A pattern that is the very structure and raison d'etre of this book. (duh)

See, Devon Hamilton-Zemaitis had just been killed in a car accident. She's waiting in line at the Pearly Gates to see St. Peter when she's introduced to a former (also dead) teacher who tells her she has a chance to earn her wings, as it were. In a matter of speaking. She hasn't exactly qualified - yet - for Heaven. She has an issue or two that need, well, clearing up. She is told she can give a gift to someone (read: Adele) to make up for her past transgressions - so she does. But it isn't exactly something nice.

Zach Zemaitis is the widower left behind with his 10-year-old daughter when Devon dies. Zach and Devon didn't always get along that well - she didn't cotton to moving around the country when Zach got a new job as a pro football player, so she stationed herself in her Texas home town, and let him come visit whenever he had the opportunity.

It's Adele's home town too. She grew up with Devon, and the 2 had a very adversarial relationship from first grade on. Adele was devastated by Zach at University of Texas when he wooed her, took her virginity and then unceremoniously dumped her for Devon. After that, Adele moved in with her grandmother in Boise, Idaho, where she met her other author friends, and has lived there since. But her sister, whose life Adele always thought was blessed, has troubles - she's 6 months pregnant and her husband left her and their 13-year-old daughter for his much-younger assistant. The sister moves back to their home town and asks Adele to come help her out. And then, the sister develops dangerously high blood pressure and must spend the next 3 months in the hospital, so Adele must stay - in the home town - to take care of her sister and niece.

Lemme explain the timeline: it's now 2008. 14 years ago, in 1994, she was at UT with Devon and Zach. Devon died in 2005. Ok, got it? Oh - and Devon and Zach's daughter is also 13 now.

OK - so, it's been three years since Devon died. It's also been three years since Adele broke up with Dwayne and has been having atrociously bad dates. There's a connection here that took me a while to glom onto. Now I've spoiled it for anyone reading, but maybe you'll enjoy the story more knowing there is a connection, if you can just figure it out... (OK, if you read the AAR review, that reviewer comes to the point and gives it away - maybe if I'd read it before I read the book, I would have figured it out sooner. I won't link it - you make up your own mind.)

Adele figures she's cursed. It's not a coincidence, by the way, that Adele writes fantasy - each of the authors gets a little of her own back in her story. Maddie, true crime writer, writes of her mother's murder in Tangled Up In You. Clare, romance writer, gets her true hero in I'm In No Mood For Love. So when Adele meets up with Zach, after trying to dodge him for days - hard to do when her niece is now Zach's daughter's best friend - she gives in to the passion, figuring her Bad Date curse will keep her from developing another relationship with him.

Adele just doesn't know what the true gift Devon gave to her was when given the chance to earn her wings - and Devon has no idea either that sometimes you don't get what you expect when you wish for something! When the first gift doesn't work out the way Devon wants, she gives her another one that is sure to get the job done - except that, once again, it doesn't turn out quite the way she planned. She hadn't counted on one thing: Zach's true feelings for Adele.

OK slight spoiler alert - the gift isn't spelled out at first, but it ain't something nice. It takes Devon a while to figure out how to use her gifts to get into Heaven. And when she doesn't do it right, she gets a little taste of her own version of Hell - the first one being having to work at Wal Mart. Heh heh.

Lucky for Devon, she is allowed one more gift at the end to earn her way to her own idea of Heaven. Although I first balked at the epilogue being about Devon, and not about Zach and Adele, after reading it I laughed out loud - it was PERFECT! And now I'm wondering if Devon played any part in my having picked up the book and being forced to read it after the van broke down...

It was a truly fun ride, and Zach and Adele were terrific in their roles of hero and heroine. Zach was an alpha hero with heart - he almost qualified for beta status as the Nice Guy. Adele was gutsy without having any of those annoying feisty heroine traits - she knows her own mind, and sticks to her guns for all the right reasons. And might I add that Gibson can write a hot scene when she's on her game, which seems to be consistently on! 5 stars.

AUDIO VERSION - I was happy to find this and Tangled Up In You on audio at and glommed the 2 - if only they'd done all 4! The narrator, Nicole Poole, is a wonderful new find for me! There are complaints in the reviews at - the sound of her sucking in a breath is pretty loud and sort of annoying at first. I quickly got over it because she is really a great narrator - her voices and accents are wonderful and distinct, and I found myself thinking of Anna Fields as she read. OK, she's not really as good an actor as Anna Fields (aka Kate Fleming) or Barbara Rosenblat or Davina Porter - but she's a close second behind that group of talented narrator/actors. I searched her books on audible - she also read Coming Undone by Susan Andersen (whose style is similar to Gibson), but I wasn't that crazy about that book when I read it (the 4th in a series) so I dunno if I'll get it or not. I will look for her narrations, though, cuz she was good! She definitely gets 5 stars on her own merit, in my book!

Tangled Up In You by Rachel Gibson ****(*)

RE-READ ON AUDIO (notes at the end) - first read in June 2008

I'm happy to say I liked this one quite a lot. Really, I should not have let See Jane Score scare me off Gibson, because I've liked everything since that.

However, caveat alert, I think I need to read some historical romance for a while because the scenarios are starting to seem alike and it's confusing. This plot had elements of both Susan Andersen's Head Over Heels and Linda Howard's After The Night, enough to make me start wondering if I'd already read the book. Not to say it was a rip-off, just that the elements were there.

There's a family bar (like Head Over Heels) only the owner is the hero, not the heroine. Mick owns 2 bars in town, and one of them has been in his family for generations. I did spend a few minutes wondering who owned and ran the bar from the time Mick's father was killed when he was 5 until the time he returned from a stint in the military 25 years later...

There's a love triangle that ended in murder involving his father and mother and her mother (like After The Night) and it concerned the father threatening to run off with the other woman instead of just having an affair (also After The Night). Since the father had so many affairs for so long, this is supposed to be unusual (also After The Night). Maybe if I hadn't just read the other 2... But there's one other element, Mick's need to protect not only his sister but his vulnerable and fatherless nephew that smacks of Andersen's writing in several books as well as Howard's After The Night. It's a universal enough scenario that, again, I don't feel it's a rip off, but it still made me keep thinking, have I read this before??

The heroine is Maddie, a true crime writer, who is moved to write the story of her mother's murder after discovering her mother's diaries. Maddie was only 5 when it happened, and her own memories are faded and distorted. But reading the diaries brings her mother's life more into focus. She buys a house in the small town where the murder occurred and moves there to start her research. She decides to use her pen name instead of her own name to keep her identity a secret - even from Mick, and even knowing it's a mistake.

Mick is immediately drawn to Maddie from her first appearance in his bar. It's not the bar where her mother was murdered - she can't bring herself to go into that bar yet. But it's a small town, and he soon learns why she is in town - to stir up memories of something he doesn't want to think about. He wants her to stop it and leave town. (After The Night, anyone?) But he also badly wants to know what she tastes like since she uses all these food-scented body products... and he can't seem to stop himself from getting just a taste.

Maddie's been celibate for 4 years, and every time he goes for a little taste, she wrestles with her conscience but gives him a little more each time. She knows once she reveals her true identity, he'll leave her alone. But she can't seem to stop, that is she can't stop letting him have a little more each time. So she just keeps rationalizing that she'll tell him next time...

The sister is a sort of loose cannon. She seems to have inherited her mother's mental issues - depression and maybe other psychoses. She seeks out Maddie and tells her some things, in an effort to be sure that Maddie reports it fairly - or rather, that she not make out Mick's mother to be mentally ill, even though she was. She gives the impression she knows more than she's telling, although she was only 10 when it happened.

This is one review at AAR that reflects exactly how I felt about this book - the plotline is serious but the writer still manages to infuse it with humor as well as passion. Her love scenes are hot enough to burn your fingers while reading. And her HEA is rewarding and satisfying. I'm thinking it's between 4 and 5 stars for me.


Just finished this and the 4th in the Author Friends series on audio - if only books 1 and 2 had also been released! As I wrote about Not Another Bad Date, the narrator, Nicole Poole, is a new narrator for me, and she's good! Really good - like almost as good as Anna Fields or Barbara Rosenblat! Her voices and accents are done well and consistently and her acting (via the narration) is great. It's a true talent to be able to read/narrate a story, doing all the voices and being convincing through acting only with the voice - no body language, nothing visible to help you. Anyway, I'll be on the lookout for more books by Ms Poole. The narration is definitely 5-star worthy.