Friday, October 16, 2020

Ava Miles - The Chocolate Garden

Visionary gardener Tammy Hollins is making a new life for herself and her children after a tragic marriage. Plants she understands, but men…well, they’re of the weed variety. She’s started her own landscaping business, catering to her country music rock star brother’s friends. Her first client is sexy, soulful, Alpha hero material, and the one man who tantalizes her and scares her to death.
John Parker McGuiness is a man of many talents, working as a songwriter and lawyer for country music’s biggest stars. He’s drawn to Tammy like no other and hires her as his landscaper, wanting to show her they’re made for each other. When Tammy learns he’s a professed chocoholic, she fashions a magical garden for him—a chocolate garden.
As the garden comes to life, their love for each other grows. When tragedy strikes Tammy’s home,
John Parker is willing to move mountains to protect her and her children. Tammy struggles to guard her newfound independence as they use the magic of the chocolate garden to help her children feel safe again. But when secrets from Tammy’s past resurface, can their love and passion survive the memories haunting her?

Comment: Two years ago, I've read my first book by this author. I enjoyed it, although it wasn't perfect, and I got curious about the following stories, the second one in particular, for it seems the author's style is to add a few scenes from the POVs of the next couple to be protagonist of a book or where we get to focus our attention on them. 

Also, how not to talk about the covers? This must be one of the luckiest author out there when it comes to cover designs, they are so appealing and gorgeous!

In this book, therefore, we have the story of Tammy (sister to the hero of book #1) and John Parker, one of his best friends. To summarize a little, Tammy's brother is a famous wealthy country singer and he paid Tammy's abusive ex a lot of money for him to divorce her and rescind custody of their children. Now Tammy is bent on starting her own life, she started a gardening business, she feels she can become the woman she wants to be and she even has John Parker, a steady, decent guy who makes her feel special.

John Parker is a decent guy, yes, and he has been in love with Tammy for some time so now she is free gain, he feels he can start hanging around so she gets used to his presence. He feels they could be a good couple and is willing to give her time. The big issue is how some unexpected events make Tammy fear she is letting others manage her life and how can she be a role model for her children. Will they ever accept their individual feelings and still work to be a committed couple?

As a whole, this can be described as a sweet, comforting story where the big issues are definitively the evolution of Tammy from a abused, fearful woman to someone who can make her own decisions and also the way the romance allowed both protagonists to go from a pretty cardboard character into someone worthy of getting to know. Well, at first sight. I think that, for me, this story only worked for its basics because the complexity one could hope for was never really achieved.

The biggest problem for me was how superficial most characters and their interactions felt. The words are there, the scenes are there but I really missed more emotion, more layers... I think, since the elements do exist, the problem is that beneath all that is the (apparent, in my personal opinion) lack of effort by the author to add complexity to her story. Everything was done easily, was fixed easily... with this I don't mean all things were badly done, only that the writing missed some more depth so that the reader could accept and enjoy the character's steps and decisions as more necessary. Often, I felt that the characters were really just being melodramatic.

Tammy does have a good evolution as a person but the more she kept thinking about the things she wanted to do, the more obstacles would appear...and I mean emotional ones. Or her bother protected too much, or John Parker wanted to protect her too much, or her young children reached conclusions on her love life without knowing her mind, etc., I just felt it was a bit unfair she went from abused to brave ut always dodging "protection" from others. Between her naivety and smothering by others, I think she wasn't given the opportunity to shine as a heroine. In the end, I think what choice did she have to be happy except be part of a couple with John Parker?

By the way, he was a very plain, boring hero. He never evolved, and while I can respect his desire to help and protect Tammy, his love for her and the kids, he never came alive as himself. I don't think the author developed his character enough for him to be special, to be someone readers would want to know. I do feel it's quite a pity the author seemed to have a goal, she went for it but ignore the necessary complexities and little things that would bring to life her characters. I should add I also found extremely annoying everyone kept calling him John Parker. Yes, it's his name, and perhaps it's a southern thing, but it was very annoying that in every single scene he is mentioned, the two names are always said and not just John, for instance.

The conflicts/tension moments in the novel are practically all from emotional sources. With this I mean, the characters faced some personal dilemmas, some doubts...this could really have worked to make them more layered, more humble or even more flawed so that we could join them in their development, their growth... in some aspects this was achieved but most times I felt more could have been done. Throughout the novel, some things did make sense, some situations were dealt in a way I could accept as realistic but I certainly would not feel the need to read this again.

All in all, this wasn't a very strong story. most things felt mechanical, felt too easily fit into a role, a goal... I think too much time was dedicated to things that were not that important and real emotion was lost. Besides, there are too many passages to count and too many scenes where there is an overload of sweetness, of irritating fluff, that I just had to roll my eyes. I wonder if the next book will be like this or like the first... it probably will take me some time to decide to pick another book by the author...

Grade: 5/10

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