2 out of 4 stars
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The Brooch by Renee Bramlet follows Macy, a working woman who has always led a fairly pragmatic lifestyle. She receives a marriage proposal from her boss, Quentin, who wants her to leave her hometown to move with him, but her relationship with her elderly grandmother keeps her from accepting his offer. While trying to recreate an antique costume jewelry brooch for her grandmother's birthday, she meets Tim, a jewelry salesman. Despite Quentin's proposal, she falls in love with Tim in the course of about two weeks. Ultimately, she is torn between making the "safe" choice with Quentin and following her heart with Tim, a conflict which is far from unfamiliar to avid readers of romance novels.
The most unique aspects of the story are fairly obvious: the search for the brooch and Macy's relationship with her grandmother. Indeed, this is the source of the most compelling aspects of the narrative. Macy's grandmother raised her from childhood, and their relationship is charming and often quite entertaining. Unfortunately, their interactions are bogged down by the book's romantic relationships. The search for the brooch itself, which could've brought Macy and Tim to some very interesting places, is boiled down to little more than them going to nondescript stores and searching for a specific gemstone. There's promise here, but if anything, the romantic themes hinder it.
Other than Macy's grandmother, most of the characters seem like one-note stereotypes. Both Macy and Tim have sex-obsessed best friends who urge them to behave impulsively. Tim himself is a prototypical love interest, with a limited selection of hobbies that happen to match Macy's own and a body that is the theoretical ideal of male beauty. Quentin is literally out of the picture for most of the book due to a business trip, reducing him to a narrative device meant to exhibit Macy's indecision and lack of trust, and Macy seems to take on whatever traits the author found convenient when writing that part of the plot. These traits are often contradictory, as well - for example, Macy has a great deal of skill at her job, but she is also so childishly impulsive as to hold her breath until she gets what she wants.
The writing doesn't work on a scene-by-scene level, either. This is perhaps best illustrated by the scene where Tim and Macy are in a restaurant talking about how people are unhappy because they behave the way they're expected to. In the background, a man delivers a speech about how he always knew his son would follow in his footsteps to become a lawyer, but he is stopped when Macy accidentally flings a mint directly into his mouth. He begins choking, and the mint flies out of his mouth and lands directly in Macy's hand. This comes off as confusing and implausible, rather than humorous, as I believe it was intended to be. Moreover, it hammers home the fact that Macy would be happier following her heart in a manner that's painfully on-the-nose.
Ultimately, while Macy's relationship with her grandmother is interesting, it isn't enough to make up for the dry, worn-out romance elements and uninteresting main characters, so I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. It is edited fairly poorly as well, with several misspellings and a slew of unnecessarily capitalized words. If you relate strongly to characters who are trapped in relationships that may not be the best choice for them, you might find something to enjoy in this book, but fans of romance books as a whole should look elsewhere. Due to its sexual content, it isn't appropriate for younger readers.
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