Like all Gerri Hill stand alone romances, I went into The Roundabout with mid-range hopes. Her books are rarely stellar but they’re almost always enjoyable in a “light, easy to read with moderately engaging characters who I want to see succeed and be happy” sort of way. The description of this one, which I’ll add just below, seemed like it might be like a reverse of one of my absolute favorites from the author, No Strings. That was enough to make me put away the other two books I was reading and focus on this one. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:
Megan Phenix—bar and grill owner in gay-friendly Eureka Springs—is labeled as “playing hard to get” and finds herself the object of much unwanted attention. If only she were seeing someone…maybe the women would leave her in peace.
Leah Rollins thinks fifty is too young to retire, so instead, she opens a store in the touristy shopping district of Eureka Springs next to the popular Phenix Grill. She soon learns that Megan Phenix is a bit on the grumpy side as they spar over parking spaces and anything else they can find to argue about. When Leah catches the attention of the multitude of single lesbians in town, she searches for a way out. Could the grumpy grill owner next door be the answer to her problems?
Megan and Leah strike an unlikely alliance and conspire to rid themselves of the unwanted attention by fake dating. Can they pull it off?
As they pretend to date and convince everyone in town that they really are a couple, the pretense becomes harder to hold on to. But there’s just one problem…they don’t really like each other.
There seemed to be some potential for a pleasant reading experience but, for me, it never panned out. I had some problems with this book that covered the plot, the characters, and some editing issues. Two of the biggest problems I had with The Roundabout were Megan being a completely unlikable character for nearly the entire book and the whole Facebook/blackmail scenario. First, Megan is constantly rude to everyone – family included. To call her grumpy is an understatement. I was probably 75% through the book before she acted like a decent human being. I don’t know why anyone would want to be friends with her, let alone ask her out even if she was the youngest available lesbian in town. And she treats Leah terribly while Leah, for a reason I don’t understand, is nice to her and doesn’t seem to mind the treatment. She says a few times that she enjoys annoying her but I don’t know what she gets out of the interactions.
I felt like very little time was spent letting the characters get to know each other and develop the chemistry that they ended up with. There was lots of space devoted to telling the reader, often in the same basic words, about Leah not knowing what she was going to sell in her shop – right up until it was time to open – and how Mary Beth was crazy or how Megan was pissed about the parking situation but not much showing positive, one-on-one experiences with the two leads. It seemed like Leah decided that Megan was cute and that was enough to move forward. Megan spent a lot of time complaining about everything and, after the attraction started to feel mutual, saying that “this can’t happen.” I never felt connected to the characters or to their relationship.
The second thing that I struggled with was the plot arc dealing with blackmail photos posted on Facebook. I found it disturbing and creepy that everyone except Megan found it funny and cute that someone stripped, posed, and photographed a passed out, drunk woman and then repeatedly posted pictures – each more revealing than the next – publicly in order to blackmail her into going on a date with her. To have even Megan’s sister, a friend of the blackmailer, tell her to just go out with her and maybe she’ll stop, felt so dirty and wrong to me. I found nothing funny about the situation and it made me feel negatively toward every person who thought it was okay to do something like that or to not do whatever they could to make it stop.
Lastly, and these things may not bother most people but they were pretty distracting to me, there were lots of repeated words and information. About halfway through, I started looking words and phrases up to see how many times they were used. If I took a shot of tequila, the drink that got Megan into the blackmail situation, every time the word “smoky” was used to describe Leah’s eyes, I’d have ended up in the hospital. Like I said, stuff like that may not bother you as a reader but, for me, they kill an otherwise good story. Where I was already having a tough time caring about the characters, it made the experience even worse.
I wouldn’t put this one on my re-read list but I will keep reading Gerri Hill’s books. Her hit-to-miss ratio with me is still pretty good when it comes to her romance novels.
You can download a sample or purchase The Roundabout by clicking here.
I received a copy of The Roundabout from the publisher for review.