Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Bluegrass State of Mind

Imagine a strong, lovely character standing on top of a hill, bathed in sunlight, an intriguing plot blossoming from beautiful descriptive words all around her. When I opened my Kindle to the first page of Kathleen Brooks' Bluegrass State of Mind, I thought I might have finally found a Contemporary Romance to hold my attention. A thrilling prologue leads into a vision of our protagonist, McKenna Mason, running from and for her life on the open roads of Kentucky. She's searching for a childhood love, a Mr. Will Ashton, sexy owner of Ashton Farm and Boots, his prized race horse.

Upon meeting Will, I was smitten. He was charming, sweet, and arrogant in all the right places, with just a touch of insecurity mixed in. We also meet Will's wonderful parents, Paige Davies, a sheik named Mo, and a host of other townsfolk, including the hysterical Rose sisters, who try in equal parts to wheedle romantic gossip out of Kenna and prevent her from having any at all to tell. We then meet Whitney, as she pushes Kenna and that promising plot down a slippery slope into mediocrity.

There were several moments where I thought the story could have been saved, but Kenna continued to trip over meddling characters and her own obtuse deductions. For something that started out thrilling and mysterious, I soon became frustrated I had figured out what was going to happen before the characters ever suspected. I couldn't even fall back on the adorable country romance—Will, who I hoped would ride in on his Ford truck and save the day, was stashed away for safekeeping, only to be brought out again when Brooks was ready for for the misunderstandings to be resolved. And then BAM, relationship. There was no getting to know him past his introduction; readers are expected to fall in love with him through quick sentences and time lapses.

I wish I could say the lackluster romance and predictable plot were the only areas in which Bluegrass State of Mind fell short, but as the story evolved, the writing did the opposite. I could hardly believe a slapstick scene of fake crying and bursts of laughter came from the same author that wrote porch-sweeping old women and a cute, cocky reunion. Multiple typos and Brooks' incessant need to explain the most obvious or unrealistic scenarios made for a grimace-filled finish. Or as much of a finish as cliffhangers will allow.

I won't say this book is completely terrible, though. Southern charm is abundant through it's pages, and Kenna is for the most part a strong leading lady. She's feminine but tough, and fits right in with Kentucky society. The preaching that good manners weren't sexist got tiresome, but I adored the fact Kenna wasn't offended by good Southern hospitality. It was a nice change from so many books preaching independence against men opening doors.

After predicting everything that would happen in Book One, I can't imagine the next two telling me anything I don't already know, so I'm unlikely to pick them up. However, I can't regret reading Bluegrass State of Mind. It did not live up to my expectations and it disappointed more than it entertained, but a majority of the characters were rich and the relationships they formed were true. If nothing else, they were well worth my time.

Dust Collector

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