Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Shorts: Road Signs by MJ Fredricks

I'm thrilled to bring you a Saturday Short with truly broad appeal. If you love Romantic Comedies, this is the perfect Spring Break reading for you!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of late, novellas seem to come in only three flavors: super hot, paranormal, and superhot swirled with paranormal. For fans of classic screwball romantic comedy shorts, this has to be beyond frustrating. Luckily, MJ Fredricks steps into the void and offers up a cute tale that will remind readers of early Lori Foster, Jennifer Crusie, Erin McCarthy, and Vicky Lewis Thompson. Back when the Grand Dames of Romantic Comedy were just getting started, they wrote a lot of really cute, funny shorts for Harlequin. Road Signs would fit right into that group.

Cam and Willow have been best friends since high school, but neither has acted on their feelings, in large part due to the fact that Willow is an honorary member of his large, loving family. Having only a distant, self-occupied single mother, Willow needs Cam and his family a lot more than she needs a boyfriend. Or so she thinks. Cam has been carrying his one-sided torch for her quietly since high school, but has recently decided to move on--literally. He's got a job interview in Seattle that would take him far away from his Midwest home. His big interview is scheduled for the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, but he doesn't tell Willow about it. Thus, when Willow gets trapped in the Thanksgiving visit from hell, she calls Cam, who drops everything, including his his train ride to Seattle, to rescue her. And thus, one of my very favorite tropes is deployed: The Roadtrip with No Money and a Tight Deadline.

Like with all screwball romantic comedies, you have to check your disbelief at the door. Crazy things happen. One right after the other. Every possible roadtrip disaster befalls our hapless duo. However, having done the midwest-to-west coast road trip a half a dozen times, I can testify that all of these things are totally possible, especially for an unprepared duo. In one single road trip? Perhaps not, but it's the thank-the-goddess-that's-not-me factor that makes Romantic Comedy so much fun.

And in classic Romantic Comedy formula, Cam is a lovable Beta hero and the sexual tension slowly builds through subtle cues, rather than lots of X-rated speculating about body parts and blatant innuendo. If you need a lot of Alpha Man hoo-rah-rah, this probably isn't the story for you. But if you miss the sweet-yet-subtly sexy novellas and short romances from the late 90s/early 2000s, you will love the slow build and Cam's I-know-a-great-guy-like-that factor. He reminds me of a young Tom Hanks or Matthew Perry--cute, sexy, goofy, and endearingly self-effacing. Willow shares her mother's tendency towards self-absorption--she's the Reese Witherspoon or Jennifer Anniston type heroine who must slowly come to see what has been right in front of her and take a risk to get it. And when she finally takes that risk, the payoff is all the much sweeter.

MJ Fredricks is perfect Spring Break reading for Romantic Comedy readers, and with its Chick-flick premise and sweet rather than graphic love scenes, it should have very broad appeal. Since I have long ago exhausted the backlists of my favorite Romantic Comedy authors, I'll be eagerly anticipating her next release. This is one road trip with a very happy ending!

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