Review: Tall Tales and Wedding Veils, Jane Graves

Cover comment: This is one of those chick lit-type covers that promises lots of SATC girl talk over martinis, and wacky wedding hijinks. Don’t be fooled. The book is much better than that.

Word on the Web:

Mrs. Giggles, Rating: 87

Ellen, AAR, Grade: A

Romance Rookies, Grade:  B+

Natuschan, Grade: B+

Book Binge, Holly, 4.5 out of 5

Laura J, TGTBTU, Grade: B+

Kristie, Ramblings on Romance, Grade: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Jandy’s Reading Room, review: mostly positive

Susiq2,, Rating: 4.5 stars

Heather’s Fave Books, Rating: 5

Maura, Coffee Time Romance, Rating: 4 cups

Cindy Reads romance, Rating: 4

Amazon: 4.5 stars after 10 reviews

AAR Thread with some majorly unhappy readers here.

Interview with Ms. Graves at Romance Bandits

Read an excerpt here.

My take in brief: There’s nothing new here, but it’s ok to do something that’s been done when you do it this well.

I’ve never read Graves (this is her 6th single title romance, having published a bunch of Harlequins as Jane Sullivan), but I picked this one up after reading some really positive reviews. I was leery of the premise — strangers from Plano get hitched in Vegas (that’s a stretch, but I’ll go with it) and then stay married for appearances’ sake (now she’s lost me, I thought) — but I figured if AAR and Mrs. Giggles agree, it has to be good. And it was. This was a thoroughly delightful, unputdownable light read.

On paper this looks like a lot of romances you’ve read: Heather Montgomery is the responsible accountant, overweight and plain looking, who longs for Mr. Right, while Tony McCaffrey is the irresponsible manchild with the rockin’ bod, who has never had much of a career, and is happy to revel in his fling-filled bachelorhood until erectile disfunction strikes or they wheel him into the Shady Acres Nursing Facility, whichever comes second.

Since Tony has never looked twice at frumpy Heather, and since Heather’s insecurities combined with her views about casual sex exclude making a pass at this male slut, what on earth could bring them together? Well, they both end up in a Vegas casino elevator at the same time, Heather as a bridesmaid at her gorgeous-but-evil cousin’s bachelorette party and Tony for a last ditch effort to come up with the money he needs to buy a neighborhood sports bar and get his professional life on track. They end up married after a night of drunken but pretty chaste revelry. You just have to go with Graves here, because there are some hard to swallow elements of their evening together.

Getting hitched was totally out of character for both Heather and Tony, but we all do crazy things sometimes, and the stresses they were both under, combined with the booze and the emotional ups and downs they experienced as they gambled, made it work for me.

So why don’t they part when the hard light of sobriety hits? You would think Tony, with his allergy to commitment, and Heather, with her no nonsense approach to life, would get right down to a quickie divorce.

This was handled deftly: Tony is grateful to Heather for giving him her winnings, so he decides to stay with Heather to help her save face in front of her family, who desperately want to see her happily hitched. He says, “If we wait a month, it means this was a real marriage. We meant to do it. Telling them after a month that we really aren’t compatible is way better than telling them we barely remember getting married in the first place.” Heather agrees, but since she is living with her parents, it means moving in with Tony, and once that happens, we’re off to the races in their relationship.

Now, I’ll give you three guesses as to what Tony’s apartment looks like, and the first two don’t count. And guess how Heather feels about cleanliness? Sure, this is predictable, but we eventually learn that Tony’s housekeeping, or lack thereof, isn’t just part of a stereotypical package for this type of hero: it’s meaningfully connected to his personality and life history. Moreover, Graves writes their conflict in a fresh and funny way. Consider this snippet of conversation:

“Nice place you’ve got here,” she told him.

“Watch it. I know sarcasm when I hear it.” Tony wheeled his suitcase against a wall and smacked down the handle. “I like the ‘lived in’ look.”

“Is that what this is?”

“I should have known. You’re a neat freak aren’t you?”

“There’s nothing freaky about being neat.”

“Other women who come here don’t seem to mind.”

“Well, there’s a fetish I’ve never heard of. You sleep with blind women.”

“They’re not looking at the decor,” he said with a smile. “They’re too busy looking at me.”

These two do their share of funny sniping, but there’s a lot more going on: a friendship grows at the same time. We see them begin to care openly for each other, and when things become sexual, it represents a milestone in their relationship, not just giving in to mental lusting (of which there is almost none in this book, thankfully).

Tony truly is charming, and while some authors do not seem to get the difference between charm and sleaze, Graves does. So when Tony attempts to seduce Heather, he’s quite persuasive, and yet, since she knows how good he is at figuring out what women want to hear, she’s not sure what to make of it. For her part, Heather has a healthy head of self-esteem: no makeovers needed here (unless throwing out her flatiron counts), but she’s reasonably insecure about how her body measures up to Tony’s Mr. America physique, not to mention to all the Miss Americas in his past. The erotic scenes, when they finally do occur, keep to the fun and friendly tone of their relationship. I would actually describe them as  “heartwarming” (and, once, heartbreaking), if that term wasn’t so overused as to be insulting.

The setting is Plano, but like a lot of contemporaries, it could have been anywhere in the US. Maybe I am being picky, but I do wish more attention had been paid to the setting (and I wish this in general in contemps). On the other hand, the setting really wasn’t all that relevant to the plot or characters, except for the brief Vegas bit.

If there’s one clunker in the book, it’s the quickie resolution of a lifelong conflict in Tony’s family, which is conveniently timed to cause his final reconciliation with Heather. I felt it was rushed and not very believable.

Heather’s family is also pretty sterotypical: guess what her former cop dad is like? Cute and furry? Ummm…no. But Heather’s relationship with her mother is fairly well done, making me eat my words of just a few posts ago. Heather’s sense of responsibility for everyone in her life includes her mother, whom she recognizes as a person in her own right, with her own hopes and fears. They provide a compelling rationale for Heather to keep up the pretense of a sham marriage, at least for long enough for it to become something more.

You can buy this at all the usual outlets, or wait for next week’s contest where I’ll be giving my copy away.

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 7:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] Win My Copy of Tall Tales and Wedding Veils Would you like me to mail you my copy of Jane Graves’ Tall Tales and Wedding Veils, which I just read and reviewed? […]

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