Sunday, August 28, 2011

REVIEW: The Heart of Texas by R.J. Scott

The Heart of Texas (Texas, #1) The Heart of Texas by R.J. Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Spoilers

The Heart of Texas read like a soap opera, which I don't mind, but had a tad too much unbelievable plot twists for me. Or maybe that's how a soap opera should be, then it was too much soap opera-ish for my taste.

What to expect: all the bad guys losing, all the good guys winning, alot of plot twists. The first half was read like a romance, the last half was read like a family saga (yes it's a genre). The book was written in 3rd POV, alternating between Riley and Jack perspective but interspersed with the supporting characters' perspective.

Jeff Hayes

I thought forcing Jeff to be the ultimate villain, no exaggeration, was overkill. The author couldn't decide whether to make Jeff an adulterer, a rapist, a woman beater, a pedophile, or a child-abuser, and so he's all of them. We learn about his extramarital affairs in the middle of the story, worse we learn he likes rough sex, really rough sex. Suddenly in that same scene, we find out he sometime likes his "women" young, which kinda hinted at pedophilia. I'm not 100% sure about the pedophilia because the author never outright say it.
Some of these women were just a little older than her daughter, than Jeff's daughter, and in each one, there were marks and bruises.
I have no idea how old Jeff's daughter is.

His mother is scared and told his wife to leave Jeff before anything serious could happen to her and their children. Especially their children, because he might end up beating them and/or raping them. And then when Jeff finds out that his wife left him and his mother made it happen, he beats her.

Near the end of the story, we find out he's the one who raped Beth. That was stretching the story too far because how could Jeff and Beth be at the same party? They don't run in same social circle, Jeff's rich and Beth's poor. I thought it was too much of a coincidence for them to be at the same place same time. What happened to the Hayes and Campbell avoiding each other?

The author didn't make Jeff a believable person, he was just evil in human flesh. Out of all the characters, Jeff was the worst not because he was the villain but because he was poorly developed. In short, Jeff was a one-dimensional character who just did bad things because he was evil like that.

Gerald Hayes

I didn't get Gerald. He was the bad guy at the start but he helped our heroes at the end. Um...okay. I was confused because the author set up Gerald as the final villain, like the final boss of a video game, our heroes must defeat before they get their HEA. Gerald was a bigot who wanted his son Riley to get married and be normal.
"Aaah, the American dream." Riley tried to keep the cynicism out of his voice "Two point four kids, the picket fence, the station wagon and the dog."
Then we find out Riley isn't even his son, but a bastard born out of an affair between his wife and his lawyer. With that, I better understood why Gerald wanted Jeff to be the boss of Hayes Oil instead of Riley. And why Gerald couldn't care less if Riley died after the fire accident at Campbell ranch.

So for the first half of the story, Gerald was the villain. And then it switched to Jeff. Wait, what? After Jeff's mother confronted his wife to leave Jeff, Jeff became the main antagonist and Gerald wasn't seen again till the end.

When we do see Gerald again, he saves Jack Campbell by falsely confessing to be Jeff's murderer. Whaaaat? What happened to the Gerald who didn't care if Riley died, who hated all Campbell, who was homophobic, who preferred his own flesh and blood son Jeff over the bastard son Riley, who blah blah blah. Why the hell did Gerald do a good thing for our heroes? I would have expected Gerald to wreck bloody vengeance upon our heroes.

No, he saves them and to a point, even accepted their gayness and all that liberal crap and was happy that Riley became the boss of Hayes Oil instead Jeff. Really? O>o

Riley Hayes

I thought the whole fire "accident" could have been easily avoided if Riley had hired some people to watch over the Campbell. For someone who knows full well how underhanded and devious the Hayes men could be, Riley should have expected his father and brother to sabotage the Campbell. Hell, he should have accepted the small possibility that his father and brother might have even wanted him and Jack dead period. It's not like there would have been any lost love.

What's up with Riley thinking he isn't gay. He isn't, he's bi as he admits so himself. Why did he resist his attraction for Jack? It wasn't because of the Hayes-Campell antagonism since Riley felt no repulsion in marrying Jack. I had a hard time watching Riley internally debating whether he was straight or gay. He's bi! Everyone knows, this wasn't a coming out of the closet. He even had a bisexual friend in Steve. The Heart of Texas wasn't a Gay-For-You story, but I got the impression that author was forcing it to be.

In Short, Inconsistent Characters

Jeff was almost everything a villain in a contemporary story could be. Gerald who was the villain became the heroes' savior at the end. Riley was either Bi or Gay or just GFY. And those were just the main characters.

Eden, the youngest child of the dysfunctional Hayes family, was described by Riley as a shopaholic.
I mean, she's a complete airhead, thinks shopping defines her life, but she has a big heart.
She didn't shop for a single damn moment. In actuality, I thought she was one of the few sensible characters in the story. She was calm enough to call her parents to give Riley the blood transfusion he needed to survive. She was smart enough to prefer Jim as her father, observant enough to know Hayes Oil hardened Riley. And no airhead could quickly cover up Jeff's murder and keep her mouth shut in front of the police. I have no idea why Riley thought his sister was ditzy.

Steve, Riley's bisexual friend, was a head turner of a character. He went from being described as a party animal to Beth's husband. Talk about instant character development, he went from having indiscriminate sex to someone settling down with a wife and kid. Somehow his love for Beth went from one of friendship to one of marriage. Right. *rolls eyes* The author was really forcing the story hard to make everyone have a happy ending, even if meant turning a character's personality upside down.

Plot Twists After Twists

I love plot twists like any reader, but I like them in reasonable amount or else they lose their thrill. I was surprised to learn Jim Bailey, the Hayes' lawyer, was Riley's biological father. But after that secret was revealed, we didn't heard much from Jim anymore. I was hoping for some sort of scene where Jim and Riley sit down and bond, to connect as father and son instead of lawyer and client. I never got that.

Once it seem the plot twist of Jim being Riley's birth father was revealed, the author sent Jim away, and then revealed another plot twist. BAM! Once that was over, another occurred making previous ones irrelevant. It was strange because I read stories whose entire premise was just the plot twist of finding out your parent wasn't your biological parent. In The Heart of Texas, it was just used a plot device, made quickly irrelevant by the next dramatic moment.

The only plot twist the author really spend time developing throughout the story was Beth's pregnancy. Anyway, too many plot twists took the focus away from Riley and Jack's romance in the last half of the book. That's why I thought The Heart of Texas wasn't a true romance but instead a family saga.

The Ending Was Too Perfect

I don't mind perfect ending, but I had in my mind The Heart of Texas as a serious story. Not to say I didn't want a HEA, I did. But I was thinking the HEA would only be for the couple and that the other characters, the good ones, wouldn't get their HEA. I even expected one or two of the good guys would died or something. I so did not expect a HEA for everyone. I mean everyone.

Jeff died. His wife and kids are safe from him. Gerald saved Jack and died. His wife Sandra is free from domestic abuse. Steve married Beth, Beth survived the pregnancy, they end up as a happy nuclear family. Riley becomes the boss of Hayes Oil, Riley and Jack have an actual wedding ceremony. All the Campbell and Hayes and their friends become nicey-nice with each other like there was never any feud. So basically all the villains were dead and all the good guys got their HEA. Uh, yeah. Would never happen in real life, though. =/

Things I Like

All the flaws I described above is what made me not give the story 5 or 4 stars. What stop me from making the story 2 or 1 star was the decent writing, not making Sandra the cliché helpless drunken housewife, capable Eden, and keeping Jack's character consistent. The author did indulge the readers with a few sex scenes, so that was good. I rate The Heart of Texas 3 stars for I-like-it.

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