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Ms. Tarr gave her hero and heroine some very appealing characteristics and some very vexing faults. And I do understand that the imperfections were to illustrate character growth. However, at the end of the story, I couldn’t accept the rapid transformation of either one.
Macie Graham is a features editor of On Top Magazine, one of the hottest, hippest women’s magazines. After publishing an article about parents putting their teenage daughters on birth control before they have sex, her magazine comes under fire from the latest right wing pundit, Ross Mannon, causing Beaute, one of their initial and largest advertisers, to cite a moral clause and pull their monthly advertising. Macie of course gets the brunt of the blame, and is extremely (and rightfully) livid with Ross.
On his morning webcam video, Ross tells his viewers about an ad he placed in his local paper stating: "Wanted: woman with old-fashioned values to serve as live-in housekeeper, child care provider, and female role model for precocious fifteen-year-old girl. Salary and benefits negotiable; values firm." He's horrified at some of the applicants, especially the one with green hair and a nose ring. And suddenly Macie knows exactly how to make Ross pay. She will apply for the job, and then be in a position to discover his true nature, and expose him for the hypocrite that he is.
Ross Mannon never aspired for his newfound fame. After publishing his research study showing a definite correlation between high-risk behaviors and the increased time teenagers spend online, the right-wing media latched on to his findings. With his genuineness, unaffectedness, and Robert Redford looks - plus his message condemning part-time parenting - he easily becomes the new media darling. Six months later he has his own daily radio program carried by over three hundred stations, and the show’s website is receiving over 100,000 visits per day.
Ross didn’t really intend to go ballistic over the article in On Top, but his worry over his fifteen-year-old daughter Samantha caused him to overreact. Once a model daughter, now at fifteen she has turned into someone he doesn’t recognize with her belly baring tops, low ride jeans and dark rimmed eyes. Of course he hasn’t spent that much time around her, just having her for the summer and every other holiday since he believes that a daughter needs her mother more than her father. He believes that he just needs to find the right woman to help him bridge the ever widening gap between his daughter and himself. One possibility is Martha Jane Gray.
Of course Macie gets the job. And assuming the role of conventional old-fashioned traditionalist is a breeze, since that is how she was raised. Before she leaves for her undercover assignment, two of her best friends give her a going away present of vintage ruby velvet-covered high heel shoes, first worn by the famous film star Maddie Mulligan. Once in Ross’s apartment, Macie’s sophisticated planning falls into place – from the catered meals to the housecleaning service. Still she had no way of knowing that she would fall under Ross’s undeniable spell. And while Ross is attracted to the character she is playing, she doubts that he would find much to admire about her true self.
While I do understand that Ms. Tarr may have wanted to illustrate the contrast between liberal and conservative lifestyles, Ross’s characterization vexed me. I have no problem with the concept of women doing cooking, cleaning and making a welcoming home if they want to do so. However I dislike it when these jobs are labeled women’s work. And while Ross is amazingly humble and kind his initial attitude of "I don’t know what's wrong with my daughter, I need a woman to fix this" reinforces the women’s work theme. His character growth entails leaving behind his history of absentee parenting, but even after he has his epiphany, he still amazed me with his poor prioritizing.
The characterization of the disillusioned career-driven heroine is not uncommon. but Macie’s motivation is. It seemed extreme to destroy a man who criticized an article - even if his criticism cost your company money. And an undercover assignment like this seems more like something a tabloid would do rather than a hip women’s magazine.
One far-fetched scenario follows another, like having a high profile individual like Ross even mentioning a live-in position on his show, much less that he would personally see an e-mail from a certain individual. But to be honest, it is not so much that the scenarios are so outrageous because I enjoyed books with more implausible situations, but those books were more comedic.
From the setup you know that trust between the heroine and hero is going to be part of the conflict. Macie flat out lies to Ross, but rather than just elaborate on this issues, Ms. Tarr adds in a concoction of problems. In addition there is a Cinderella theme related to the ruby velvet covered high heel shoes. There are just too many threads for 162 pages and each one gets short-shifted.
Maybe if you are a fan of Ms. Tarr’s work then you will enjoy this book more than I did.
-- Leigh Davis
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