Author: Janet Evanovich, Dorien Kelly
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Date Published: January 3, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Kate Appleton needs a job. Her husband has left her, she’s been fired from her position as a magazine editor, and the only place she wants to go is to her parents’ summer house, The Nutshell, in Keene’s Harbor, Michigan. Kate’s plan is to turn The Nutshell into a Bed and Breakfast. Problem is, she needs cash, and the only job she can land is less than savory. Matt Culhane wants Kate to spy on his brewery employees. Someone has been sabotaging his company, and Kate is just new enough in town that she can insert herself into Culhane’s business and snoop around for him. If Kate finds the culprit, Matt will pay her a $20,000 bonus. Needless to say, Kate is highly motivated. But several problems present themselves. Kate despises beer. No one seems to trust her. And she is falling hard for her boss. Can these two smoke out a saboteur, save Kate’s family home, and keep a killer from closing in…all while resisting their undeniable attraction to one another? Filled with humor, heart, and loveable characters, Love in a Nutshell is delicious fun.
When it comes to Janet Evanovich and her romance novels, there is a definite formula in action. Take one spunky, fiery, somewhat klutzy young adult/middle aged woman, throw in a life crisis (Usually divorce, family interference, job loss or some combination of the three), have her move somewhere foreign or quirky where she meets the sexy business entrepeneur of her dreams. Then que the mystery murders or theiving bad guy who puts the woman in danger, and threatens her new way of life all while revealing to the man just how much he wants to protect said woman. Everything then is wrapped up nicely when the two solve the mystery and then become engaged, pregnant, or married. Seriously. From Love Overboard to Love in a Nutshell and every mini-romance in between, that's the general plot, and despite knowing the outcome from page one, I have to admit that it usually works for me. These are quick, adorable, and giggle-worthy romances that don't have a whole lot of plot but are cute enough and fun enough to enjoy and maybe even recommend.
Adding another author to the formula is not new for Evanovich. I've read her entire "Full" series that she co-engineered with Charlotte Hughes. It was fun, adorable, and full of the same kind of humor that dominates everything that Evanovich writes. I actually struggled to find the Charlotte among the Janet and I was pretty curious to find out about what it takes to write a book with another author. I'm pretty sure I've read an article that Janet wrote that addressed how exactly one can co-write a book. If I remember correctly, she typically gives the other author the reigns and helps by giving pointers, editing, and generally making sure that the book can stand on it's own two feet. What I found odd about Love in a Nutshell was that it had the standard Evanovich format, but the writing style was distinctly someone elses. What makes even the trashiest of Evanovich's romance novels really pop is the ridiculously hilarious characters, the funny animal sidekicks, and the slapstick kind of comedy humor that runs rampant throughout all of her writings.
That being said, a lot of the hilarity was missing in Nutshell. It was still cute, but it lacked a little of the soul and character development I've come to know and love. The two main characters Kate and Matt had some chemistry, but without a lot of personal development and...I dunno...quirks? Personality? It was like they were stock characters that needed to be fleshed out just a hair more to turn them into memorable people. There was quite a bit lacking in the relationship department as well and I couldn't tell what attracted them about each other. You are told over and over again that the other one is attractive and that the other character wants them...but no reason why. There's no..."her strength and tenacity made her even more gorgeous than her sexy blonde hair" or anything of that nature. Without it I was rather indifferent to the pair as a couple and didn't really find myself rooting for them to get together.
As for the plot, it was simple but enjoyable. I thought that Matt's brewery business was really interesting, particulary because it involves one of my all-time favorite things: beer. I thought that Kate's desire to fix up her lake house and start a B&B was a little tired, and then it was also neglected as Kate kind of loses track of her goal to pursue her relationship with Matt. The mystery and the romance flowed nicely together and built upon each other so that everything seemed to build up evenly. Even though the story follows the Evanovich Standard I was still guessing as to who the sabateour was until the big reveal. A lot of times these beachy reads have really predictable villains and I was glad that it wasn't the case with Nutshell. The only thing I will say is that I felt like I've read this book before. Not just because I've read Evanovich's other works, but because every single action, almost every single romantic thing that falls out of Matt's mouth, I can picture another of Evanovich's more famous characters (Like Stephanie Plum and Morelli) saying and doing. I found it distracting in the extreme, though anyone who is an Evanovich virgin would still be entertained.
I love Love LOVE!! the location of this book. As a Michigander through and through (I bleed Maize and Blue and my blood turns to ice in the winter :P) I can definitely appreciate the feel of a Michigan novel. It's got everything from Royal Oak where I party on the weekends, to Traverse City where I go for the Cherry Festival, and of course the main setting of a quaint Lake-House kind of town. Even though Michigan tends to be on the lower income side of the line, something like 1 in 5 of the people I know have two houses. We have our regular houses in the suburbs or cities, and then a lake house or cabin for the weekends or summer. Not many people understand the feel or dynamics of the summer-people vs. townies and I thought Dorien Kelly did an excellent job creating the atmosphere that I've grown up with at my own lakehouse in Jackson. ALSO...this is probably because she is a fellow Michigander and thus is infinitely more knowledgeable than a lot of other authors, but Dorien didn't focus on Detroit as the crime-hub of the world. Detroit is NOT as bad as people make it out to be and a lot of the time I get super pissed when I read about a character who is "a rough-and-tumble gang-banger from Detroit" (I literally read that discription once and just about had a conniption fit. Besides...we all know that the gang activity, strip clubs, drug deals, and murders really happen in Flint...