Review: Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery
**May contain plot spoilers**
Chasing Perfect is another of the hearth and home style romances that are supposed to be the new up and coming trend in romance publishing. Fortunately, though, Mallery's style lacks the sickly sweet tone so many of those novels have and delivers a thoughtful and funny small town romance.
Yes, there are the obligatory plot elements: move from the city to small town life, the traumatized dowdy woman seeking to settle down and have a family, the local playboy... But there's enough genuine emotion and characterization to overcome those conventions.
Josh Golden is the local celebrity of Fool's Gold, a small mountain town in the Sierras. He's a former professional cyclist (think Lance Armstrong) who has given up riding after witnessing a fatal wreck involving one of his teammates. Charity Jones is the newly hired city planner. Determined not to end up like her mother--choosing the wrong men and flitting from place to place--she longs to settle down, find a stable, no-nonsense guy and raise a family. Clearly, despite her attraction to him, Josh isn't a "normal" guy and Charity is convinced he won't stay in Fool's Gold for long.
I had a difficult time visualizing Fool's Gold despite some pretty detailed descriptions. One minute it is supposed to be small--the kind of town you can walk from one end to other in--the next it has a population capable of supporting 2 hospitals, a university satellite campus, and several big events. In the end, it sounded like more of a suburb of Sacramento located in the foothills than a genuine small town in the mountains.
The romance, though, is where this book really shines. Charity tries to find a normal guy to fall for while resisting the almost hypnotic allure of Josh. She tries to ignore the obvious chemistry, but events (and the town's mayor) conspire to keep throwing them in together in various situations. I really liked both characters. They both had well developed senses of humor; they were both flawed but genuinely nice people. And both had to work through some personal issues before reaching for the Happily Ever After.
Mallery has an engaging writing style. I was hooked immediately. There's no real suspense in this novel. No real dramatic tension except for some emotional hangups. But I found the plot moving along quite quickly anyway. I wanted to find out how they would resolve their multitude of issues. And I felt the author did a great job of overcoming any obstacles without taking the easy way out.
My only complaints are relatively minor (aside from the setting). I'm honestly a little tired of having an obligatory dying person in Mallery's romances. Nearly every book I've read has had someone (main or secondary character) dying of cancer, nervous disorder...you name it. It worked the first few times, but now seems like it's not serving any purpose except to add some sadness or melodrama to the story.
The other complaint is a secondary "suspenseful" storyline involving some embezzling from a California stimulus payment. It didn't really serve any purpose. No real suspense was added. It didn't affect our main characters in any way, and was resolved in an incredibly superficial way.
Overall, though, this was a witty and fun read with very well done characters. I am looking forward to the next installment in the series.
My Grade: B
Also available in Kindle Format