Welcome to Storybook Lake, where dreams come true.
Not all fairy tales have a happy ending. Jocelyn learned that the hard way, when she married her high school sweetheart Keaton Shaw—only to have him break her heart.
But that was a long time ago. The papers were signed, the divorce finalized, and Jocelyn is no longer a little girl with her head in the clouds. That’s why no one in Storybook can believe it when Keaton, the All-American dream boy, walks into Jocelyn’s bakery, looking as sweet as one of her frosted cupcakes, and demanding a second chance with the woman he still calls his wife.
Source: ARC from Lyrical Shine (Kensington Books) via NetGalley
This book made me angry. Seriously, astonishingly angry – I’m talking stress-headache levels of suppressed rage. And since I can’t talk about any of it without spoilers, consider this your warning.
Cat 5 Spoiler Warning!
You have been warned.
What now follows is a long rant. I would apologise, but I’m still pretty annoyed.
Normally I love a good old second-chance romance. I like a bit of high school sweethearts too, and if there’s a bit about marriage breakdown and how to make it all come good, then great. Somehow, despite having all of these things in abundance, this book still left me spluttering and swearing in an incoherent fury.
At first I thought Jocelyn would be my biggest problem. Present day Jocelyn is a little unstable in her mood swings, though getting woken up at stupid-o’clock to go get her ex-husband out of jail is fair cause for being less than perfect on the emotional scale. But the way she bounces between, “He broke my heart, Precious, we hates him, we hates him forever!” to “Oh, but I could just lick him up, look at his yummy hotness and the way you can see all his muscles in that shirt” – which just makes me think he needs a bigger shirt. Anyway, I found that a touch annoying. Add in the flashbacks to teen Joss, who was a monstrous brat, and I worried that I’d have no sympathy for her at all.
How wrong I was. Because no matter how awful Joss is, Keaton is worse. I’m not the biggest fan of flashback scenes, to be honest, but some of these worked really well in this story. However, although the back story was frequently a lot stronger than the present in terms of character development, in neither era could I see why these two people were together. Chemistry, sure, but enough to stay together for years and married for several more? Nope. They have nothing in common. She goes off at the smallest provocation and he is weak.
Yep, Keaton is weak. I thought badly enough of him when the reason for the marriage breakdown came out and he wheedled and whimpered about being kissed, not kissing, and he didn’t fight the divorce because he hurt Joss. Pitiful, pitiful. Then it came out that he also brought that same woman to the divorce court – and she ended up sticking her tongue down his throat… Yet somehow he’s not the bad guy or the stupid guy here and it’s all Joss’s fault? WTF?!
The longer the story went on the worse it got. There was a moment when I thought Keaton had some terrible disease and had come back to make peace with her before, of course, miraculously recovering thanks to the power of love or something equally corny. But no. He’s come back because, boo hoo, he’s broken without her and only Joss can make his life liveable again. Which is such a nice healthy basis for a relationship. And when it comes to winning her back, he just sort hangs around, turning up where he’s not wanting, relying on her twin brother to plead his case while he sort of smirks in the back ground and refuses to sleep with her until she says yes to marrying him again.
I tell you, this guy is a prince!
Then the story takes a pretty swift side-turn into injury and possible loss and tragedy, and actually was really beautifully done, with Joss so terrified of losing her brother and the way she refuses to leave the hospital. This bit of the book I was fully on board for and the way Keaton looked after her gave me hope. Even the flashback about her miscarriage didn’t annoy me, and in fact made me realise for the first time that maybe they were good together.
Sadly, this section doesn’t last and any good feelings I had towards Keaton swiftly vanished into the abyss of my cold, black, cynical heart. Because that woman he kissed and who broke up his marriage? Yeah, her. Well, I forgot to mention that she’s Joss’ nemesis and has been since they were toddlers. They hate each other. Danielle dated both Joss’ twin and Keaton in school, but Joss managed to break her and her brother up, apparently doing them both a terrible service because they were each other’s Love of Their Lives!!!! Except Dani is a complete and utter bitch and you wouldn’t blame Joss for getting her brother away from that kind of poison.
Turns out Keaton ended up living with Dani for a while, and may or may not have fathered her son. Although he can’t remember, because he was off his face drunk pretty much the whole time they lived together – but this isn’t anything Joss can blame him for because he was broken when their marriage ended.
Are you kidding me? Somehow he manages to make it her fault. He thought Joss was going to break up with him, so he got drunk and took the drugs DANI offered him on the night of his anniversary dinner with Joss. He can’t remember what happened, but Joss can because she walked in to find DANI wrapped around him and the pair of them kissing. But it’s totally not his fault, right, because he was already heartbroken and the drugs were just there and how could he resist, poor, heartbroken, but beautiful man that he is.
Besides, Joss should completely get over this whole thing she has against Dani because when his mother got worried about his drinking, she spoke to Dani’s mother, who sent her out to live with him. They lived together for a while and he was drinking all the time, but they slept in separate rooms, so it was all totally innocent. Then Dani said she was pregnant, he sobered up and it’s a miracle – Dani saved his life!
No, actually, dumbass, she didn’t. Just as Joss is not to blame for your addiction issues and getting back together with her will not help. You are a lying liar who lies, who couldn’t deal with the fact that the pair of you should never have married in the first place, so took the easy way out into the bottle. Not once in this book is he called an alcoholic, nor is any attempt made to make him appear so or to show that he is seeking on going help. He’s just a weak man who blames bad things on other people and looks to other people to make things right for him because he’s too weak to do anything for himself.
This whole revelatory titbit lands in the second to last chapter. I couldn’t see how the hell things could come back from that and was preparing for an interestingly non-romance ending. Which I would have been okay with, considering all that had gone before.
Then Keaton’s mother arrives to tell Joss that her son can’t live without him and they were happy together once, they love each other and it’s all her fault if she throws this awesome thing away. WHOA! Joss is not responsible for your son’s weaknesses, nor should his happiness rely solely on her. He needs to get his shit together before these two try again. He can’t even do his own crawling for himself, he needs his mother to do it. And when Joss is guilted into believing it’s all her fault and she must give him a chance because True Love! he’s all smug and smirky and a complete dick about everything.
CAN YOU SEE WHY I GOT ANGRY?
The worst, absolutely worst thing about all of this, is that this book is actually really well written because if it wasn’t it couldn’t have induced such steaming rage from me. I never really liked Joss throughout the whole book – except in the hospital – but I was on her side when it came to her marriage. Keaton was awful. Her mother wasn’t particularly brilliant, and her brother bounced constantly between awesome and douche canoe. I just… I think I’ve raged myself out, because I really can’t think of anything else to say…
Although, where is the lake? Where is the small town community I was promised? All I got was horrible people doing horrible things to each other in the name of love. Nope, nope, nope. My head hurts just thinking about it. I think I need to go and lie down now…
Read this is you want to get angry. It’s probably a pretty realistic portrayal of what happens to some high school marriages, but perhaps it was too real, because this isn’t a romance. It’s one big guilt trip to make the person who isn’t wrong feel like it, so they end up apologising at the end when they didn’t do anything!
And I’m stopping now. Seriously. Before I hurt myself. Urgh.
Here He Comes Again is out August 18th.
Visit Melissa Shirley for more details.