It’s that time again! The February Blog Tour, courtesy of the fine people over at Graf-Martin Communications Inc. and Baker/Revell books.
This month there are 3 books to share with you, all very, very different. We have one book that I thought I would enjoy and didn’t, one book I thought might be decent and was, and one book I wasn’t really sure about and LOVED. Of course, we’re going to save the best for last, so come back later this week to see which one was my favorite (and might go on my list of memorable reads for the year!).
We’ll start things off with a contemporary romance…
Swinging on a Star (Weddings by Bella, Book 2) – Janice Thompson
Life is good for Bella Rossi: She’s managing her family’s wedding business and has a Renaissance wedding to plan for a client, her aunt is about to be featured on the Food Network, and her charming boyfriend D.J. is everything she’s dreamed of… what could go wrong? For one, the best man at the wedding is one of Hollywood’s biggest (and hottest) stars, and to avoid the paparazzi he has to stay at her family’s home. To make matters even more awkward, he seems to be showing an interest in Bella.
From a starstruck sister to a feuding aunt and uncle, Bella has a lot on her plate. Will the wedding simply end in disaster, or will Bella make it through in one piece?
I chose this book to review because the press release said it was a “hilarious romantic comedy” that will “appeal to fans of Kristin Billerbeck”. If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you know I’m absolutely a fan of Billerbeck’s writing, so this book sounded like something I’d definitely enjoy — lighthearted, fun, charming, romantic…
With all due apologies to the author, I have to admit, I found the book neither hilarious nor romantic. Since I haven’t read the first book, maybe I was missing out on some character background that I needed to really get into the story, but it felt as though the romance element got all used up in the first book, leaving nothing left for this one. Bella already had her boyfriend, case closed. He’s perfect, charming, lovable, and all around the perfect guy.
Well, when the “Hollywood hunk” appeared on scene (note: another problem I had with this book was dated language… for as young as Bella is supposed to be, she talked like a middle-aged woman sometimes… it was a little jarring, to say the least), the synopsis material made it sound like THIS was going to be where the conflict and romance kicked in. A celebrity taking interest in the main character! Temptation and seduction! (Er, in a “Christian fiction” kind of way, of course.) Here’s where things are going to blow up!
…but it’s kind of hard to relate to a main character who is so perfect that she feels guilty talking to another man. Are you kidding me? In one scene at a play, she’s talking to the Hollywood star and senses that her boyfriend is annoyed at her… for talking to a guest at her home? So, what, she’s never allowed to talk to another attractive man in her life? Not only that, but the implied romantic interest he has in Bella never actually materializes, beyond him smiling flirtatiously across the dinner table… that kind of thing.
I was very disappointed by this — I felt like this major plot point was set up and then abandoned, due to the overwhelming virtuousness of the main character. Her struggles (oh no, he smiled at me! I must be unfaithful!) felt contrived, like a real effort had to be made to have anything wrong with her (there wasn’t), and ultimately I couldn’t connect with the character at all. Bella Rossi isn’t an ‘everywoman’, rather she’s the kind of model Christian that makes other women feel bad about themselves and ultimately hate her for it. I’m not saying I hated Bella (I’m not THAT cruel), but I just couldn’t connect with her character and felt more annoyed with her than anything else.
Look, I’m married. I’m faithful to my husband, and he’s a jealous man (as husbands tend to be). But do I feel awful and horrible and start to think infidelity metaphors apply to me when I talk to another man that I find visually appealing? NO! There’s no reason to feel guilty. The issue would arise if I started thinking about another man, fantasizing about him or dwelling on thoughts of someone who isn’t my husband. Good grief. One five-second daydream and Bella reacts with an intensity as if she’s slept with the guy (okay, maybe not THAT bad). Talk about overreacting.
So the book wasn’t for me. That’s clear. But let me say this: Janice Thompson has written a lot of books in her career, which means that she has a lot of fans out there. She’s a recognized name in the Christian fiction community, and just because I didn’t like the book doesn’t mean that you won’t. I’m serious! I’ve recently read several reviews of this book on other book blog sites, and those readers enjoyed the story (though the issue of Bella’s perfection tends to come up in those reviews as well…).
BUT… and this is a big one… I’ve also read that Thompson’s development of Bella in the THIRD BOOK in the series is very different. This is from the author herself! Evidently Bella goes through a lot of tough places in book three, and is forced to evaluate herself and her relationships, and we’ll see a lot of growth from her as an individual. That’s a good sign, and I think it might actually entice me to read book three once it comes out.
Like I said, Thompson’s work is well known, so if you traditionally enjoy her books or other Christian contemporary fiction books, you’ll probably find something to enjoy here as well. Don’t let my qualms scare you off completely.
To help you make the choice for yourself, here’s a link (LINKY!) to a pdf excerpt from the book. Read it, and decide for yourself if this is something you’d like to read. It can be read without book one, but maybe going back to the first book would make a difference in how you perceive the characters in this one. It’s worth a shot!
Available now from your favorite bookseller from Revell,
a division of Baker Publishing Group.