Oakland Hills series, Gretchen Galway

OK, we all know by now I get a hard on for books that come in multiples, or attached to other books, or in some variations of those. So it is no surprise I actually paid for books #2 to #6 (or #7) in this series.

The first book, Love Handles, is free for your troubles, and to be honest a decent rope in for the rest of them. I regret spending anything on the last two though. But, first things first. In Love Handles the author wants you to believe the female lead (Bev) is a fat preschool teacher who, after inheriting her grandfather`s fitness wear company, falls for the former Olympic swimmer Liam, the executive vice president of said failing company.

One of my biggest issues in this book, and the ones following, is that Gretchen seems to not be sure what fat is. We all have our definitions of big, or plump, or generous, but they are not so specific. We don`t actually know how our lead looks like (which is kind of the major point in “plus size” romance), and when she is described through someone`s POV she appears to be a pale Kim K. More sex-and-fertility-on-legs than overweight really. So, false advertising there. You can not have something be an issue when it is very much not. The girls in the books are all sensual sex pots that don`t have problems attracting men. The author is trying to force them into the “fat” category. It may just be a badly executed idea of public vs. personal opinion, and not intentional vagueness. Either way, sloppy writing.

The book itself is an ok read when you don`t feel like much or have few hours to kill. I made the mistake of falling for the family characters in the book, and the meddling mama Trixie. The kind of happy deus ex machina character who manages to somehow know it all (without having any information at all), and play matchmaker for all her kids. She is well written as a personality so you can manage to gloss over her unbelievable powers of clairvoyance.

Book two, This Time Next Door, pairs up a big blond bombshell Rose and a tech genius who can`t talk to women Mark (Liam`s brother). They were both consistently written as themselves, with a few out of the blue scenes the story so far has not prepared you for. There are scenes and dialogues I just could not follow (like they were sharing space in a third brain I have no access to), and just plain awkward scenes. I felt the sexual tension and chemistry, and I buy it. Connection and forever? No.

Quick Takes is a collection of short stories (30ish pages each) with the first one falling on the timeline after This Time Next Door. All I can say is that the first three are ok, and the last one about Trixie is a disappointment. Not the actual romance and character pairing, but the execution.

The third story in the series is Not Quite Perfect. In it, flighty April (third sibling) goes for a young widower Zack who consults for the company Bev and Liam own. It is by far my favorite. Zack is decently written and April had two books to introduce herself. I liked it the most because the characters showed actual human reactions and growth, they had believable problems and they dealt with them “in character”, so to speak. I had no WTF moments.

This Changes Everything had great potential and did not deliver. Sly and Cleo are already friends so a big leap into sex and romantic love is possible, yet there are still reactions and dialogues that are inconsistent with their situation and personalities. The more I look back on it, the more annoyed I get. At this point I think each book could simply benefit from 100 pages more, with space dedicated to character development. And they would get 4 stars instead of 3.

The last two books, Going for Broke and Going Wild, are about two Garcia sisters who are related to Trixie. Their stories begin after the death of their grandmother, who leaves her old house to them. Going Wild is more in tune with the others (still needs 100 more pages), but Going for Broke is not worth your time. Really. It is just about two poorly written characters who want to do each other. Even the sister who is supposed to be the lead in the next one is so badly written she almost has nothing to do with herself from the other book.

If I had to say are the books individually worth your time, I would say no. People with lives and jobs and things to do have much better literature (romance or other) to spend their time and money on.

Download the first one for free and read it if you want, you won`t hurt much. But the rest of them are not worth an investment.




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