I have to say right off the bat, one of my favorite things about Kaye Dacus’s books is that she sets me up and doesn’t deliver the expected “payoff.” I know that’s an odd thing to say, but follow me here… Don’t you just hate it when the setup comes and, for the next 150 pages, you just read and wait for the cliche’ to happen? In fact, you almost dread it a little. “Here we go… She’s going to find out he kicked her dog and storm out in a huge snit.” For me, it’s like a time bomb ticking, but not in a good way.
This is why I read Kaye Dacus. When I read her second novel, Menu for Romance, I actually sat up in the bed and shouted, “YES!” (And my husband did, indeed, think I was insane.) Why? Because she set me up for a cliche’ and then totally turned the tables on me. The cliche’ never came. (That excited me almost as much as the Red Sox beating the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALS back in 2004.) In that moment, she had me hooked. I can really sink into her books, because I’m not dreading the “dramatic plot turn” I see coming from page 32. In fact, not going for the cliche’ forces an author to get creative, and that’s when the fun begins. (For the record… There was one “twist” I did see coming, but I think we were meant to and to get exciting waiting for it to happen. It wasn’t a “dread” kind of twist, but an “isn’t that pretty cool how God works” thing.)
Kaye’s latest, The Art of Romance, didn’t disappoint me one bit. In fact, it’s a cool twist on the romance genre, because in this case, it’s the man who has the “growing” to do. I loved that little flip in the game. Dylan Bradley has a few issues because of the relationship he has recently ended, and those issues mess with how he sees himself and the world. He is a very real character with a lot of work to do on his life, which is nice. A lot of times, the hero’s flaws are hinted at or don’t exist at all. It was different to see a man with authentic issues who has to work to be who he wants to be. It’s a fine line Kaye treads with bringing those problems to the front and with making him strong enough to be a hero as well, but she manages to do it in a way that made me like Dylan and root for him.
Caylor Evans is the apparent “strong one,” but even she has some secrets that keep her from fully opening up to Dylan. Her relationship with her grandmother was so beautiful to me, largely because her grandmother reminded me so much of my own. The characterization was wonderful in these two, and I felt like I knew them. Kaye has a way of dropping in tiny little things that seem unimportant but make all the difference in letting you really know the characters. It hit me, at one point when Zarah and Flannery came onstage, that the “girlfriend” scenes were well done, because I felt that ahhhh feeling you get when you have a good girl chat. Now that’s fun.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Art of Romance. Definitely check it out. Can’t wait for Flannery’s story in Turnabout’s Fair Play!