As promised, I come bearing a preview of a horrid romance novel. From Steeple Hill Books’ Love Inspired line, I bring you Sweet Blessings by Jillian Hart.
Chapter One. So, a man walks into a diner . . . seriously. Our protagonist checks him out as he stands “like a shadow” by the door. Is he a g-g-ghost? Now, that would be different! It is established that he is a stranger and looks exhausted, like one who has been on the road too long. Amy hopes that he will be a “quick in-and-out.” Oh, really? What sort of establishment are you running here?
Amy hopes this lone wolf will leave soon, as she has a young’un at home. She studies the man, as she leads him to a seat, then as she takes his order. He is exhausted – have we mentioned that already? We have? Well, he IS, okay? He also makes “less noise than a shadow.” Again, is he a ghost?
The stranger orders coffee and a burger, with bacon, “if it’s not too much trouble.” I suppose this is to establish that he is polite, despite his pain?
Any watches him in the reflection, his haunted look. Too much occultness! What would Phil Phillips say?
The haunting has affected Amy, too. “The regrets and despair of the past yanked within her, like a summer trout caught on a fishing hook.” Hey, bub, looks like we caught a live one! And it’s a ghost fish!
The man also feels hopelessness, because he now has his head in his hands. Maybe he’s hungry, Amy; perhaps you should put in his burger order.
Amy brings his coffee and speculates on why he is so sad and lonely. Then, FINALLY, she gives the order to her sister, Rachel, who is apparently the cook in their little establishment. Rachel asks if the “other guys” have left. No. The sisters hope they leave soon, as they were a bit noisy when they first came in, and the women are basically by themselves. “Big-city crime didn’t happen in their little Montana town, but that didn’t mean a woman ought to let down her guard.” ‘Sup, Foreshadowing?
While the burger cooks, they talk about Amy’s son, and his asthma, blah blah blah, character-establishment-through-dialogue. Amy loves her big sister. They were orphaned a t young age. Oh, look, the roughnecks are leaving! Amy thinks they might be drunk. She doesn’t approve, but turning people away is bad for small-town bizness. She’s known rowdy men in her life, but “life was different now.” Read – Amy is no longer a slut.
The Rowdy Duo want to know what kind of pie there is. Nah, not apple. How ’bout sumpin’ sweeter, like cherry? *wink wink* Wanna step out tonight with us? No? Okay, I guess we’ll go.
Ding! Burger up! That took an eternity, then again, this is Montana, right? We’re on Sloowtiime. However, the RowdyCreeps intercept her again; now they wanna know if she got any booze hid. You don’t got a liquor license? What kinda place IS this? A fambly resterant? Lemme swear again. Amy doesn’t like swears.
The LoneStranger takes all this in; the wolf is on the alert now. This makes Amy feel good, as she knows this is “the Lord at work.” Until this man does something to you . . .
Rowdy and his pal, Cursey, leave, leading Amy to breathe a prayer of thanks. Oh, but the drunks only paid for half the bill. Wah wah. Her complaints spur the lone wolf – he’s finally got a name now, Heath – to action. Which leads the point of view to him now.
He wonders if Amy’s been hurt before as he runs out of the diner and into the gusty rain, in an attempt to catch the stiffs. He lopes towards the LowlifeMobile, but its inhabitants are already safely inside. And he’s a tortured soul, have we mentioned this? Well, he stands in the way and waits for the truck to hit him. Whatever kills the pain, right? Including reading this book!
“The wind blew through him as if he were already gone.” Cause he is! She’s gonna eventually shag a ghost, I tells ya. The headlights “bore holes” into his eyes. So now
Caster Heath is blind, too!
And last minute, he quicksteps and avoids the truck. He is still alive, although at risk for electrocution. Such a hopeless life. He stands there, dripping wet, watching the two sisters watch him from the door of the restaurant. I suppose we’re supposed to be curious about his reactions and thoughts; why he is in pain, et cetera. But I don’t really care.
Heath returns to the diner, and can’t stand the concern wafting from Amy. He’s cynical.
‘Cause he’s tortured, you see. Or haunted. Or something.
He wants the burger to go now, and Amy doesn’t want to charge him, and that annoys him. So does the fact that she has ketchup packets at the ready in her apron. What the hell? He is not a man for handouts and revivals. Does that include the ketchup? Cause in some way, you paid for it.
Heath stands for heathen! I get it now!
A heathen who now disappears into the night, a shadow bearing a bacon burger in a Styrofoam box.