And the final stop on our blog tour is… fiction, the third in a series for which I’ve previously reviewed the second book. You can find that review here, from our February blog tour.
Did you see which book it was? Yes, that’s right… Janice Thompson’s ‘Weddings By Bella’ series.
It Had to Be You (Weddings By Bella, Book 3) – Janice Thompson
Synopsis (from publisher):
Get ready for a double dose of wedding frenzy!
Bella couldn’t be happier that two of her long-feuding relatives have finally admitted their love for one another and are getting married. Their forties-style wedding is sure to be a night to remember. But when the Rossi house begins to fill up with family from Italy–and an old mobster from New Jersey–life starts to get complicated. Will a friend from the past drive the happy couple apart once more? And will Bella ever have time to think of her own rapidly approaching wedding amid the chaos?
Full of humor, plenty of Italian passion, and a bit of Texas gumption, It Had to Be You will have you laughing out loud and wiping a tear from your eye.
Why, oh why did I agree to read this when I was less than impressed with book #2? Well, I have a good reason. When I was browsing around online a few days after posting my own review, I came across a rather positive review of the book on someone else’s site. The author of that review had a few similar qualms to mine (notably, the lack of any flaws in the main character), so I clicked through to read the comments. Turns out the author took a moment to comment on the review and mention that in book #3, we’d see more of Bella’s flaws and she’d have some tough things to work through.
“Oh, well in that case,” I thought, “Maybe I’ll read the next book if it’s available, because I’m curious to see how that pans out.”
Lucky for me, the third book came up for offer on this blog tour, and I accepted. And read the book with an open mind and a view toward what the author said she was trying to accomplish with this installment.
How did that turn out? I’ll tell you honestly — I enjoyed this book a lot more than the previous one, that’s for darn sure. But then again, that’s not saying much. In all seriousness though, I had a much easier time working through this book and relating to the characters than in book 2. Maybe that’s because the author had two previous books in which to develop the characters and establish the family dynamics? Still, it worked better this time.
Now, the rest of what I have to say about the book may dive into spoilery territory, so if you plan on reading the book, go ahead and stop reading the review now. I mean it! If you’re not sure about whether you’ll read it or not, and are interested in my qualms, keep reading — but I’m warning you, I will give away one plot point in particular at the end… mind you, it’s a rather predictable plot point, but I warn you nonetheless.
So… ***SPOILERS AHEAD***
Yes, the family dynamics worked better. Yes, Bella’s character, and the supporting characters, were better shaped, and I didn’t want to scream at them as often. However, there’s still the issue of the “too perfect” hero and heroine.
Bella’s fiance is absolutely flawless. He keeps a few secrets from her now and again — which is presented to us like this is something terrible — but the secrets are actually surprises. So, nothing harmful or things that you’d typically consider a “secret” kept from a significant other. Yes, we read romances for strong, capable men, but no one is perfect. No one is in a good mood 100% of the time. Especially in the months leading up to a wedding!
But even I could look past this. What I really wanted out of this book was to see something change in Bella. I wanted to see her weaknesses, her frailties, anything to be able to connect with this all-too-perfect heroine that, in the previous book, did nothing but make me want to scream at her. This time around, Bella actually did get flustered. She lost concentration, she wasn’t always in a good mood… and it was clear that the author was taking her down the “doing too much & not caring for yourself” road (maybe Bella should have read “No More Christian Nice Girl”!).
This was a good sign! A flaw (albeit, a pretty weak one…)! And here’s your spoiler, because Bella’s overexertion lands her in the hospital with a diagnosis of exhaustion. Yeah, we saw that coming. But then it gets bizarre… because instead of teaching Bella a lesson about doing too much and not taking care of herself, we get a moment of NON-FORESHADOWED PERSONAL CRISIS where Bella “realizes” that she’s been trying to “prove herself to everyone”, yada yada. Wait… what? This is the flaw? This is the thing she needs to confront?
Okay, okay, that’s fine and all… but we learn about it only in the last few chapters of the book?!? If Bella was so concerned about failing and ruining her business and such, shouldn’t we have seen hints of it throughout the novel? Instead, we get an overworked Bella who seems to be doing it because she’s a workaholic… not because of some personal crisis.
When you throw out reasoning like that at the last second, it negates all the character building work from the rest of the book. It felt random, and I still don’t know why we didn’t see real hints of it throughout the rest of the novel. Honestly, it spoiled the book for me. I’d been having a decent time reading it until… total randomness. Sigh.
Look, I know this author has a large following and has written a lot of books, and I think that’s wonderful! Like I’ve said before, she has a wide audience who clearly love her style of storytelling, and I don’t begrudge that one bit. So, Janice Thompson, if you read this (since clearly you read blog reviews!), please know that I respect you as a successful author who has found her niche market. I really, truly mean that!
However, since not every book is for everybody, I think I’m justified in saying that I don’t like how this one ended and I felt a bit cheated by it. Still, looking at the book as a whole, I had a much better experience with this one than the previous installment, and I do think this one could be read as a stand-alone without the previous two.
Ultimately? Stick it in the church library! I know folks who would love to read this kind of thing, and even though I didn’t particularly care for the writing style, the characterization, or the plot “twist” with Bella, I know it has an audience out there with readers who like their romances very sweet and very innocent (and with perfect people).
So, if that’s your thing? Don’t let me discourage you!
And for your own reading pleasure… here’s an excerpt you can read, to see for yourself whether it’s the kind of thing you’d enjoy or not (note: it’s a PDF).
Available now at your favorite bookseller from Revell,
a division of Baker Publishing Group.