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The Fixer Upper*

Funny, Lovely Characters But Missing Tension

A fun and quirky contemporary romance that didn’t quite have enough true conflict or tension. This book is well written, so you may not be aware of its deficiencies until you give it a little thought. Abby inherits her aunt’s home and moves in while she finishes her dissertation and also tries to figure out her next move in life beyond academia. Her next-door neighbor, whom she quickly nicknames Sheriff Stud Muffin, meets her in a most amusing way. I’ve got to hand it to the author. Parts of this book are really quite humorous. Abby is a very quirky young woman with a love of 80s horror that seems to be integral to her character. It does cause some amusing moments as she lives in this beautiful old Victorian and seems to see and feel threats at every turn. Nothing too heavy or serious but in an amusing way. For instance, her aunt had a collection of porcelain dolls that Abby finds a little creepy.

There is a parallel historical love story that we see unfold throughout the book due to a discovered journal. Insights from this little book inform the characters’ thoughts and actions and may even give the reader something to think on. There’s also another small plot about break-ins going on in the area. So, between the contemporary romance, the historical romance, the criminal activity, and Abby’s attempt to understand herself and her future better, there is a lot going on in this story. I thought the book had a bit of a data dump at the beginning, which I’m not a fan of. This is actually a long book, so the author could have definitely woven in bits of backstory more adeptly throughout. There were at times some very long narrative passages, which can get tedious in a book (especially one of length). There was more profanity than I like in a book and certainly more than was needed for characterization.

But I think the greatest flaw in this book is that it felt like there were no true conflicts. This couple had instant chemistry—and it did sparkle and jump off the page. They become friendly, and then they become intimate. but it didn’t really feel like there was true tension or conflict as the plot moved along. For me, key ingredients in a romance include the All Is Lost moment towards the end followed by a Proof of Love (self-sacrifice without expectations). That didn’t happen in this book, so even though there is the HEA, it felt unsatisfying. If you don’t mind low-tension love stories, this book actually is humorous and delightful. I just wish it had a little bit more substance.