Back on Track
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As I mentioned in last month’s column, I’d gotten sort of burned out with the same old romance novel—too many “period pieces,” if you will. I discovered with Eternal Nights that I really liked sci-fi romances, so I decided to try to branch out even more. Back on Track by Abby Gaines couldn’t get farther from my comfort zone, and I think that had a big impact on my reaction to this book. Apparently, Ms. Gaines is a rabid NASCAR fan—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unfortunately, even after living in the South for the last three years, I just haven’t gained any sort of appreciation for the “sport” (pardon the eye-rolling) and therefore couldn’t really get into the book, since it’s about as NASCAR-heavy as Daytona in the summer.

Kelly Greenwood is a sports psychologist who’s eager to prove herself in her field and erase the memory of failing on her last job. She’s also a huge NASCAR fan. Trent Matheson is a NASCAR driver who’s also eager to prove himself, both on and off the track. Trent wants to run the family business one day, but his pretty-boy good looks and rakish attitude have gotten him labeled the airhead in his family. When Trent’s racing hits a slump, his father (Brady, head of Matheson Racing) brings in Kelly to try to get Trent’s head back in the game. Unlike most romances, there isn’t an instant attraction between the two—well, Kelly finds Trent drop-dead gorgeous, but he’s too used to leggy, buxom blondes to even notice poor Kelly. Eventually, though, she gets under his skin, and he finds himself falling in love with his “shrink.”

All in all, this entire book was a disappointment. Maybe I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I liked the sport, since, as a non-fan, certain things just grated on my nerves. But Gaines also has a habit of using a character’s inner dialogue as exposition—which, if used once in a while, is all right, but if it’s used too much, it comes across as a cop out. It’s easier to write exposition rather than dialogue, after all. Then there’s her predilection for allowing characters to finish their thoughts with sentence fragments. As a writer, I could see she was going for a certain feeling of wistfulness or anxiety, but, mostly, it just came across as sloppy writing. The whole book seemed amateurish, like something that would win a local newspaper fiction contest—and not an actual Harlequin Romance Novel.

And the worst part of this romance novel? There was no sex. None. At. All. I couldn’t believe it! Here I was, expecting some hot and heavy Pit Stop Sex, but there was not a bit of steam in this book. Trent does kiss Kelly a couple of times (he started the novel off by trying to make her so uncomfortable that she’d quit), but that’s about as sexy as things get.

All told, I think Back on Track is a book best left to racing fans. Of course, that could just be the Yankee in me talking.

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