Book Lovers

By Emily Henry

“You seem pretty pleased with yourself,” he says, “for a woman who just found out she was the inspiration for Cruella de Vil.” I scowl at him. Charlie rolls his eyes. “Come on. I’ll buy you a martini. Or a puppy coat.”

Mom and Libby liked the love stories where everything turned out perfectly, wrapped in a bow, and I’ve always wondered why I gravitate toward something else. I used to think it was because people like me don’t get those endings. And asking for it, hoping for it, is a way to lose something you’ve never even had.

I suspect that many romance authors put the word “book” in the title in order to increase their sales, so I vet a book set in a bookstore or involving novelists very carefully. This one was a no-brainer though because I enjoyed two of Emily Henry’s previous books, Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation. I was immediately drawn in by the heroine, Nora, comparing herself to “the other woman” in a small town (read Hallmark) romance. That would be the hard-charging, cold and manipulative, career-oriented city-centric woman that the hero dumps for love and marriage with the sweet small-town heroine. Libby, Nora’s beloved sister, a happy but harried and exhausted mom, thinks that she and Nora need a reset in their lives. She, to get some rest and relaxation, Nora to re-examine her lifestyle and perhaps find love. Nora agrees to the plan because she cannot deny her sister anything. Libby decides to take her sister to a highly fictionalized (it turns out) version of the small town in the mountains of North Carolina in which one of Nora’s authors/clients set her recent best-seller (soon to be a major motion picture.) There, Libby presents a list of small-town romance cliches that Nora is to do (attend a festival, save a local business, etc.) before the end of their stay. Being a reluctant and slightly embarrassed Hallmark aficionado, I was hooked. Libby is trying to engineer the flipside of the Hallmark romance trope for Nora: The workaholic big city girl who finds love in the country and changes her ways. But that’s boring. Luckily, a fly in the ointment appears in the form of  Charlie, a city acquaintance of Nora’s who is kind of a male version of her and thus not suitable to force Nora out of her rut. Their initial antagonism, based on a past encounter and their mutual reputations, quickly leads to sharp and clever banter,  funny wisecracks, and lust.

The entertaining snark flows thick and fast, but I realized, around the 30% mark that nothing else was happening. Nora’s dates with the local swains don’t count because we know those are going nowhere. Her small-town adventures are just amusing window dressing. Nora’s growing lust for Charlie and vice versa is described over and over. Their personal relationship develops while working together on a new book. But it just didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  

Things did pick up a little over halfway when it became obvious that Libby, who I came to like, was hiding something from Nora. Something not good. So the intrigue and mystery of that kept me going. Also getting a lot of pages is Nora and Libby’s childhood, the death of their mother and how that molded their current dysfunctional relationship. Charlie’s past struggles with his family, and why Nora and Charlie, obviously made for each other, can’t have a sexual fling, let alone a long-term relationship, also get a lot of words.

In the end, it turns out that if everyone had just had frank and honest conversations with each other we wouldn’t have had a book. And why that didn’t happen didn’t make sense. And isn’t that just the ultimate Hallmark cliche? The bottom line is, that if this had been a TV romance movie, this would have been 5 stars. As a novel, it was maybe a shade over 3 stars. There were just too many times that, if this had been a movie, I would have been yelling at the screen, throwing the remote, and rolling my eyes. That’s fun when looking at a Hallmark, not so much in a novel.

According to Emily Henry herself, she wanted to portray what happened “after the credits” to the dumped city girlfriend who is joyless, ruthless, and as Nora is described, shark-like. We are told that is how Nora is, but we never see it. She is kind, nurturing, and patient throughout. Yes, she wants to go back to the city in the end, but she also has a lot of fun in the small town while she is there. So despite the fact that I enjoyed Nora, she was kind of a fail. I would have liked to see her being scary even if just in one token scene.

However, Libby’s secret and the big misunderstanding turned out to be a good one and really made perfect sense out of everything. I really liked the final chapters of the book, and the epilogue was one of the most charmingly written I can remember reading. It was very very well done. To sum up, the banter was good, the wisecracks were funny, Emily Henry is a good writer, the concept was great, I liked the characters with the caveat that we should have seen Nora’s “shark” side and we didn’t, the balance between the romance and the other threads was good, and the last 15% I enjoyed greatly. But see paragraph 4.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

July 3, 2022

A Christmas Melody

Coffee, Close-Ups, and Costumes

This Mariah Carey-directed vehicle is semi-notorious for its unintentionally funny softly filtered close-ups of Carey’s face and the jaw-dropping product placements of Folgers Classic Roast Coffee. But beyond that, it is an above-average Hallmark Christmas romance.

Dress designer and single mother Kristin Parson returns to her Ohio hometown right before Christmas after her boutique in Los Angeles fails. On her way out the door for the final time, she gives her framed first 5 dollars she ever made to a white-bearded beggar on the street. Ahem. Welcomed back to Silver Falls by her Aunt, played by the lovable Kathy Najimy, Lacey settles right in with her whiny and sulky-about-moving daughter, ably played by young Fina Strazza. Determined to win her daughter over to small-town life, Lacey sets about getting her talented daughter a place in the Christmas pageant. This is where Mariah Carey rears her almost always disembodied head to provide some conflict and trouble for Lacey to triumph over. Mariah is head of the PTA, in charge of the show, and hates Lacey for an undisclosed reason. And nope, auditions are closed. This is where the other lead, Brennan Elliot comes in. He is the music teacher who had a high school teenage crush on Lacey and gets her singer/dancer/ poet/ songwriter daughter into the show. Lacey and Brendan have great rapport and always work well together.

Everything is going along fine with Lacey saving the show with her talented costume making, her daughter settling into school and making friends with the help of a mysterious white-bearded janitor, and romance blossoming with the lovestruck Brennan. And then, one night, her former assistant shows up with the news that Lacey has been offered a job in L.A. designing her own line of clothes for a department store chain. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how this all ends. Spoiler alert: Lacey vanquishes Mariah by killing her with kindness and her daughter steals the show with a surprisingly entertaining solo performance complete with backup singers a la Love Actually. Song by Mariah Carey. Oh weird. Love Actually’s tour de force climatic singing performance at the school pageant was a rendition of a song by Mariah Carey. Hmmm.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Two Tickets to Paradise

I Like Her Again

I used to be a huge Ashley Williams fan. Her perky cheerful demeanor really energized many of the Hallmarks she starred in. I just couldn’t help smiling whenever she came on the scene. Then I got a little tired of her. Instead of perky, she came across as over-caffeinated and exhausting. Instead of cheerful, she came across as manic. And she started to wield that mega-watt smile like it was a weapon. So I approached this latest Ashley Williams vehicle with caution. I did look forward to how she would pair with one of my fave Hallmark actors Ryan Paevey.

I would like to renew my membership to the Ashley Williams fan club, please. At least on a movie-to-movie basis. She plays a happy bride who is dumped the morning of her wedding. Sitting on the floor of the church toilet stall Boo-Hooing hysterically with Mascara running all over her face, she was hilarious. I never liked her more. “I never should have forced him to watch The Sound of Music!!!!,” she wails to her mother and sister frantically pounding on the bathroom door.  Out she tumbles from the window of the church in full wedding regalia and meets Ryan Paevey, who has been similarly dumped. They engage in some banter and Ryan talks her into going on her Hawaiian honeymoon by herself. She is taken under the wing of a sweet resort manager and starts having a good time. “ Mango-Lime Mimosa? Sounds Gross. I’ll take it!” Ryan later shows up at the resort himself (Are you following me?”). No, he has a good friend on the island and also needs a break. They become friends, go on adventures, start to recover from their trauma, and the inevitable happens. Yes, that. But also her ex-fiance shows up.

The dialogue was funny and the rest of the scripting was good too. Ryan and Ashley’s relationship develops naturally and they both experience a needed change of attitude towards how to approach life. Ashley really nailed both the comedy and the serious stuff and her good-humored rapport with Ryan was spot on. Yes her too famous for her own good grin was front and center, but somehow it was just fine. Great Scenery, well-played secondary characters, and topped off by a nice satisfying “One Year Later” scene. I love those.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 27, 2022

A Gift to Remember

Nice!

I really enjoyed this one back in 2017, but I never reviewed it. It came up again during Christmas in July or Merry Movie Week or whatever so I decided to re-watch it. I am pleased to say it really held up.

 First off, it was based on an amnesia scenario and thus was able to avoid the city bad/country good rescue the whatever from the evil corporation,” Let’s go to or save the festival!” Hallmark tent poles. It was actually set in Philadelphia although it is debatable whether it was filmed there. Another point in its favor was that this featured an interracial secondary romance, fairly unusual in 2017 for Hallmark. Third and most important were the talents and charm of the two stars Ali Liebert and Peter Porte. Ali has been up and down with me depending on the state of her botox treatments. One of her main appeals is her unusually expressive eyebrows. So when her eyebrows are working, all is well. I know that sounds funny, but it’s true! This is early-ish in her Hallmark career and her first lead role in a Hallmark after languishing in the friend zone for a couple of years. Peter Porte’s acting chops are not up to Ali’s but he is too gorgeous to be real and he seems like a nice guy. They worked well together.

Ali plays Darcy, a shy and reticent bookstore employee who does not like to take chances or rock the boat. She accidentally runs over Peter Porte on her bike sending him into retrograde amnesia. She feels responsible because she is so nice and in her desire to help him regain his memory she starts uncovering clues to his background and identity. By doing this, she discovers she is persistent, a problem solver, and is willing to conquer the fears which are holding her back from going for the job as manager of the bookstore. She figures out that he is rich, has an important job in the literary world, doesn’t like Christmas, and is about to become engaged to his girlfriend. These conclusions make sense given the clues, but don’t make sense as she comes to know Aiden and don’t jive with his gradually returning memory either. So we have a little mystery going on as well as a roadblock to their growing attraction to each other.  When the truth comes out, it all makes perfect sense and all of the details are tied up. (He is single for one thing) Aiden’s real story results in a very nice ending with Darcy meeting his real family, and her little local bookstore triumphing over Mega-book’s ruthless machinations. And she gets promoted to manager. Ali Liebert just has a special spark in this, and she was just charming.

This part is really silly, but I really liked her make-up. It was pretty rather than glamorous until she had a fancy event to attend, and only then did she have the false eyelashes and the red lipstick. It seems like these days Hallmark actresses put on the Glamour Shots treatment just to walk the dog. Oh, the good old days of 2017.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 26, 2022

Our Dream Wedding

Unveiled

I liked this one right from the beginning. Two medical students, Natalie and Scott, sending out their applications for residencies, are very much in love. We meet her family who also loves Scott. Sometimes you just get tired of two strangers meeting cute and going through the old enemies-to-lovers thing. Natalie is a perfectionist who always has a plan and is in control. Scott is a more fly by the seat of his pants kind of guy. This is demonstrated by his proposal of marriage to her out of the blue when it had never even been discussed. She turns him down, and frankly, it did seem like very poor timing. They are about to do their residencies and there is no guarantee they would even be in the same city for years. But anyway, he is heartbroken and she is conflicted because she really does love him. She goes to Mimi her grandmother and Mimi pulls out her magic wedding veil. Natalie is shot 10 years into the future so she can get some clarity by experiencing life married to Scott. She gets plopped down a couple of days before her sister’s wedding which Natalie is organizing because she is so organized. Needless to say, the marriage is happy and successful. There are some blips, starting with her fainting upon seeing she has two kids and the whole situation. She falls and hits her head and gets knocked out. This gives her an excuse when she acts weird and forgets things she never knew. The couple gets peeved with each other, feelings are hurt, and there is even some bickering, but all in all the marriage is a success. She wants to go back to make things right with Scott,  but Mimi tells her that is up to the veil. When the time finally arrives, I really liked that Mimi explains that when she goes back to trying on the veil 10 years ago, she will think that what she experienced was all a dream. I like it when these little time travel dilemmas are explained. Her “heart will know the truth” and she will know what to do about marrying Scott if she listens to her heart. But did she hurt him too deeply? Is it too late?

There were some minor problems with some of the details. Back to reality, she rushes to the airport to stop Scott from getting on the plane to Chicago and is freaked out when she thinks she missed him. Why didn’t she just text him not to get on the plane? 10 years in the future and everyone looked the same and so did the world. Where are the flying cars? And most egregious of all, The mother of the bride, the maid of honor, and the grandmother all wore white to her sister’s wedding! In the end, Scott and Natalie are engaged, but the probable conflict with their immediate career paths, which is the main reason she turned him down to begin with, is swept under the rug. But all in all, it was a nice story with no festivals, exotic locales, or other gimmicks to fill in the time. UPtv keeps it simple. The acting was really good, and there were touching moments, a little drama, a little humor, and some learned lessons. I particularly liked the actor who played Scott, who was cute, but in a normal guy kind of way.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 23, 2022

The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor–the Truth and the Turmoil

By Tina Brown

In The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown, I felt like I was getting the straight scoop. Or at least as straight as is possible. In addition, it was entertaining, seemingly agenda-free, balanced, eye-opening, and juicy. Alas, it relentlessly barreled towards the tragedy of Diana’s death, which, to put it lightly, put a pall on my wholehearted enjoyment of reading the story. All of the above adjectives also apply to The Palace Papers which, in addition, is sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny. There is a neverending stream of revelations and “Who knew?” moments involving Camilla and her first husband, Thomas Markle, The Spencers, the Queen Mother, and too many more to mention. I approached this one with more enthusiasm because as I write this, the main characters’ story isn’t yet finished. There is hope that everything will turn out all right for this crazy family.

In Tina Brown’s wry and clear-eyed analysis of the royal family’s characters and actions, no one escapes unscathed. Of course, some are more scathed than others. There is entertainment to be found on almost every page. If you can’t stand Prince Andrew and who does, you will take great pleasure in TB’s recounting of his degrading fall from grace. He’s even worse than you think he is. If you love the Queen, you will be discomfited to learn of the many times her habit of “ostriching”, that is, stubbornly ignoring red flags in order to avoid confrontation, has caused embarrassment and disaster. If you like Kate you may be disappointed that, yes, it’s probably true that she schemed and planned to catch William before she even knew him. And to keep him. And thank God she did. Catherine and William both as a unit and individually come off the best. As does her family, especially her mother. Also, Camilla. A lot of time is spent on Camilla and she emerges as somewhat of a heroine. And one you’d most like to be your dinner partner. Charles though mostly living up to his reputation as an “eccentric drip too needy, too vulnerable, too emotional, too complicated,[and] too self-centered,” in the end comes off pretty well. Why isn’t “Charles more celebrated for his strenuous progressivism, and for his demonstrably humane labors? Ironically, he cared about many of the things the liberal bible The Guardian espoused, and to which the [royalist and conservative] Murdoch press was instinctively hostile.” Surprisingly, Harry’s 2 most famous ex-girlfriends, Chelsy Davy and Cressida “Cringe de-la Cringe” Bonas, both come across as great girls that Harry would have been lucky to land. The despicable acts of the British tabloids drove Chelsy away. With Cressida, it was both the tabloids and Harry’s inability to manage his hatred of them. It was she who got him into much-needed therapy. Who knew?

William and Harry can only be understood in the context of their mother, so there is a lot of still interesting analysis of Diana and rehashing of her adventures. Volatile Harry idolizes his mother. He has inherited a lot of her qualities, both good and bad. He is more Spencer than Windsor. But he doesn’t understand her as well as sensible William. He was sadly privy to more of her unfortunate behavior and he is more Windsor than Spencer.

And what of Meghan and Harry? Whoo Boy. It is complicated. A lot of time is spent recounting Meghan’s history and trying to understand and explain her. In many ways, it all comes down to her non-understanding of British and Royal ways.

Meghan’s curious failure to prepare for a vocation that was the royal equivalent of taking the veil was a surprise to many of her former colleagues… Meghan as an actress had always been known for “doing her homework,” exhaustively grilling anyone who could help her for “notes.”

And the converse is true. Shouldn’t the Royal household have made an effort to understand her and explain things to her? “She found it draining to traverse the chasms between her California effusiveness and British understatement. It was her earnestness versus their irony, her explicitness versus their words unsaid.” It was a clash of cultures rather than personalities. “The British work ethic is a frustration for any alpha American hell-bent on “hitting the ground running.” William advised Harry and Michelle Obama advised Meghan to “take time”. Harry, to marry Meghan, and Meghan to make positive change. Neither of them listened. Maybe they would have, but time is something that Harry, wanting a family, and 38-year-old Meghan did not have a lot of. It’s a darn shame. She started off so well.

As one former Palace adviser put it to [the author]: “Very impressive. Very strong, very motivated, brought up to think she can change the world. It’s a very American type; we don’t have them here.” And she could have been just what the doctor ordered for the royal family. Now her platform is gone.

Meghan comes across as self-important, but, until her star aligned with Harry’s, uncomfortably aware her that actual social and professional status (6th on the call sheet) was not keeping up with her (very) lofty ambitions. Harry and Meghan are both too much alike. They are both temperamental and combative. They fuel each other’s distrust of everybody else and revel in their “us against the world” mentality. He did not want her to conform. That would not have suited his purpose. The other royal couples are successful because they balance and steady each other, not egg each other on. “My strength and stay.”

perhaps the most powerful survival element of the monarchy has turned out to be marital love. Without the caring resolve of the Queen Mother, George VI would have been a stammering introvert who could never have led the country in its hour of need. Without Philip’s bracing loyalty, the Queen could have been a lonely conformist, run by her courtiers. Without finally being allowed to marry Camilla, Charles would have suffered a slow death of the soul instead of his late flowering into an unapologetically happy man. And without Kate’s serene empathy, William might have collapsed under the pain of his childhood and the weight of his future. Diana’s two boys have each found the sustaining love that eluded her, even though in Harry’s case he chose to leave rather than allow his wife to be crushed by the media and the Palace machine.”

Ever since Harry was forced out of his chosen military career, which suited him perfectly and would have been the making of him, he had been unmoored and desperately unhappy. His escape, thanks to Meghan, was probably for the best. But can he weather the challenges of his new life and the necessity of making his own way? Given his history? Can Meghan’s ego be satisfied with her diminishing influence? And what about the rest of the Windsors? Can their institution survive the death of the Queen? It’ll be interesting.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

June 12, 2022

The Bodyguard

by Katherine Center

I listened to this on audio, and it was an entertaining romantic comedy. Our heroine is a female bodyguard hired to protect an A-list movie star (male, of course) from a female stalker/corgi breeder/sweater knitter. It was fun and funny with lots of both comedy and snark. There was some drama-our heroine, Hannah, has some self-esteem issues which she tends to over-compensate for and the hero, Jack Stapleton, is estranged from his brother due to the tragic death, blamed on Jack, of their youngest brother. Hannah is put in charge of Jack’s security while he is visiting the family ranch. His mother is recovering from a bout with cancer, and not wanting to put undue stress on her, it is decided that Hannah will pose as his girlfriend rather than his “executive protection agent”. It was a cute concept. Let the romance begin.

Written in first person, the book was narrated by Patti Murin who, with her tomboy-ish tone was perfectly cast as Hannah. I love Katharine Center’s authorial voice, as I did with the other book I read by her, Things You Save in a Fire, about a female firefighter. She has a real talent for establishing an intimate, “best-friends” relationship with the reader which puts you right in the midst of things. The heroines in the two books are similar, in that they both are a little too anxious to prove their badassery. Hannah started off very cantankerous to the point that I was a little put off at first. Once she settled into her role at the family ranch she calmed down, and we are taken up with Jack’s relationship with his family and what was going on there. Not to mention Hannah’s reluctant attachment to the Stapleton family. And Jack, of course.

This was a straight-up rom-com. Nothing more and nothing less. For the com part, we are treated to a lot of funny banter, and fish out of water scenarios. We have some pretty entertaining cheating ex-boyfriend and beautiful mean ex-girlfriend action added to the mix. As for the rom part, it’s never smooth sailing (it can’t be, can it?) but the roadblocks to the relationship between Jack and Hannah were entirely of her own making. Her determination to not believe in Jack, who was perfectly lovely by the way, didn’t sit too well with me. Especially as Hannah goes to great pains to tell us what a genius she is at reading people. Her obtuseness almost leads to catastrophe.

The final wrap-up made up for the quibbles I had as a whole. Katherine Center really knows how to end a book. There was one part that was even quite moving but it involved a very peripheral character we barely know. So. The Ballad of Jack and Hannah was an entertaining story but didn’t go very deep. No thrills or chills for me, but that’s OK. It accomplished what I think it aspired to. It was fun. I can’t blame it for not being what it wasn’t even trying for.
3 1/2 stars I’ll round up thanks to the ending.

Thank-You to Net Galley and Macmillan Audio for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 4, 2022

Rip in Time

Hall of Fame Worthy-It’s About Time!

I had very high hopes for this one, and I was not disappointed. It debuted on Hallmark Murders and Mysteries which serves as the home of more serious movies that don’t fit the usual Hallmark Romance mold. It was written by C. J. Cox who penned one of the best Hallmarks in recent years, Love Strikes Twice, as well as the Reese Witherspoon favorite Sweet Home Alabama and Rene Zellweger’s New in Town. It starred Niall Matter as Rip Van Winkle’s estranged son who travels from his time to ours and meets single mother Torrey DeVitto, and her son and father, the current owners of the old Van Winkle property.  Time Travel stories are always a safe bet and Niall Matter is a favorite of mine. Torrey DeVitto, not so much, but she was fine in this. Niall seems to have an air of melancholy behind his eyes, which was perfect for this role.

The fish out of water aspect was well done with enough shock and awe at the modern conveniences to make it believable and entertaining, but not so much as to distract from the story and relationship building.

When Torrey, armed with a rifle, and her son first discover Rip cowering in the barn, they flip on the light:

“Are You a Witch?!”

“She was, last Halloween.”

“Please do not shoot me, Witch!”

“Keep Calling me that. Give me a reason.”

“Oh. You are a spinster forced to wear pants to protect your family. I did not mean to offend you.”

“I am not a spinster, and I am offended.”

There really wasn’t much of a plot, other than the family not believing his story, trying to figure out who he is really, hiring him as a temporary farmhand rather than having him locked up, and their adventures in New York City to a hypnotist. It is there that he is taken to a doctor which results in a musket ball being removed from his leg. A musket ball that has not been manufactured since 1830 from an old (Revolutionary) war wound. Explain that one, doubters! Because of that musket ball, their last stop is with a quantum physicist (Ben Wilkinson) who posits that time travel is possible and Rip’s story might be true.

Most of the movie is relationship building with Rip helping Torrey’s bullied son, dealing with the jealous suspicions of his rival for Torrey’s affection, a police deputy, and of course the slow burn romance. Also, a festival. Of course.

The writing was full of authentic details, including bringing in Washington Irving’s classic tale and a lecture on farm machinery of the era. Glad to learn about flax breaks.  Not to mention Ben Wilkinson attempting to explain the science behind time travel to a stunned Torrey and a bewildered Rip.

The romantic conclusion was a little too pat, with many future challenges remaining unaddressed.  But the reach across time, by means of a backpack, provided a reconciliation between Rip and his misunderstood father that was touching and satisfying.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

May 24, 2022

Romance to the Rescue

It’s All about the Dog

The human cast was OK but the dog stole every scene. He was adorable and hilarious. What an actor! Hallmark better get “Nova” locked down with an ironclad contract before GAC comes a-callin’. Just saying.

Andrea Brooks plays Kyra, a young and ambitious marketing person who works in a pet store. In order to impress her new boss, who she is also crushing on, she lies about having a dog. In order to cover her tracks, she goes to a local rescue organization to adopt a dog. The owner (Marcus Rosner-Kevin) is very picky about who rescues his dogs. She has to lie to him about her qualifications in order to fulfill his strict requirements. She really had to jump through a lot of hoops. Believe me when I tell you that Nova, who plays Sam, the dog, was absolutely pure liquid joy.

On a home visit(!) to Kyra’s house, to make absolutely sure Sam and Kyra are doing OK, it is obvious to Kevin that she doesn’t know what the hell she is doing as far as discipline and training are concerned. Sam has trashed her house in 10 seconds flat. Kyra goes through an amusing montage of prospective dog trainers. They range from militaristic to a holistic new-age approach, and none are a good match for the dynamo that is Sam.  Kevin ends up with the job and the rest is history.

Andrea Brooks was energetic, perky, and cute. I liked her, but I can see that a little of her could go a long way. After many many secondary roles in the Hallmark factory, she deserves the promotion to head girl. Marcus Rossner was fine, but I felt he was a little miscast. I feel like the part was written for a nerdy underdog type (no pun intended), and Marcus is anything but. But he carried it off.

Anyway, this was a perfectly serviceable Hallmark as far as plot and character, but OMG, that dog!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

May 23, 2022

Road Trip Romance

Not Dreadful, but Very Very Average

Which is almost worse than dreadful.

I’m getting to be able to judge if I am going to like a Hallmark( 8, 9, or 10 stars) by the amount and application of make-up the head girl is wearing. Natalie Hall’s foundation and eyelashes were thick and ever-present, therefore I didn’t like this one. As unflattering and aging as a lot of make-up is, at least it was understandable at the beginning when she was pitching her company to a potential client. It’s not like this was a ranch-girl part. But why the next day, when she was off the clock in a small town or alone in a car with someone she supposedly doesn’t like? I mean, how long does it take to put false eyelashes on?

Natalie meets an ex-high-school rival in the same distant city while they are both competing for the same contract. And their companies sell the exact crazy thing: very niche mechanical party favors. What are the odds? I guess the same as two rivals both being butterfly wranglers for parties and having their parties right next door to each other at the same time. Even though they are both at least in their 30s, they, at least Natalie, are still nursing their petty high-school grudges.

After their business is concluded they both have to fly back to Hometownsville. She for her sister’s wedding, he for his Dad’s retirement barbecue. The flights have all been canceled. Road Trip! Forced propinquity! Hate to Love! That’s all folks!

A couple of highlights: Along the way, their car break-eth down, and they are force-eth to attend-eth a Rennaisance Festival in a small town, sleep-eth in a tent (no s’mores thank God), and deal-eth with a mechanic who won’t fix-eth their car because it’s a Renaissance festival and they didn’t have-eth cars in the Renaissance.  Natalie, the maid of honor, misses all of the festivities and her maid-of-honor duties and almost misses the wedding. The bride’s ”best friend”, who is a dead ringer for Joyce DeWitt of Three’s Company,  is corralled into taking over for Natalie, and she likes it a little too much. When Natalie finally arrives, Joyce tells her the wrong church and leaves her with the wrong dress. Wow.

Natalie seems to be a favorite with many and seems to be the go-to girl when a  young(ish) lead is needed. I am not a fan. I do like Corey Sevier, who plays a bit of a nerd. He has the best line in the movie, “When the real men were huntering and gathering, I always preferred to stay at home and read about it.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

May 20, 2022