You know when you go to a romantic movie because you want to walk out all warm and fuzzy and see someone’s life work out? And then it doesn’t and you’re not sure if you should be pissed off or bummed out or just frustrated like a teenager whose parents walked in three minutes too soon?
That’s The Girl She Used to Be. Melody and her parents witnessed a Mafia hit when she was six years old and their lives ended. They survived (for awhile), but they entered Witness Protection. In a fit of teenage snit over a boy, Melody ratted out her parents to a local paper and 29 hours later they were dead. So she is relocated over and over and over, but this time alone. The story begins with her ending one identity, making up a threat, and starting another out of ennui. But then she meets a son of the Mafia family when he breaks into her motel room while her agent walks along the beach and everything turns on its head. She’s tired of running and living a lie and feeling insecure. This guy is in love with her after shadowing her for years, wants to save her by taking her into the heart of his family under his protection, and, to top it all off, is gorgeous and well-mannered. Go figure.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Nicholas Sparks. Stephanie Meyer. It’s all about some handsome guy whose whole world revolves around us, around a woman, the woman who is telling the story. And we eat it up because we want to be that girl with the guy who is tough on the exterior, but soft inside. Who kicks the ass of the rest of the world, but wants to protect us and kiss us and bring us to climaxes we did not even dream were possible and this just by giving us the look. Or flashing his abs. It’s our version of a doe-eyed centerfold. It’s a little uncomfortable to realize how appealing that story line is, but ok.
Here’s the brutal part. After pages and pages of Melody whining about her lost life and then pages and pages of her forgetting about the death of her parents as she luxuriates in the pampering that can be bought by Mafia money and the feeling of security from being attached to the baddest bad ass in the room, she ends up alone. Like, forever alone. Virgin Queen alone.
So thumbs up for the premise and the first half of the book. I could have even forgiven the whining if, after following the conventions of romance, the happy caricatures ended up together. That’s the problem with genre. When you try to bust it, you risk alienating your audience. Would Pride and Prejudice have been such a hit if Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy didn’t end up together? No way, Jose. I don’t read romance to have a literary experience. Or to close the cover feeling worse than when I opened it. Geez.
As with a hangover, the best cure for a bad ending is to start reading again. My fingers are crossed.