After having given up on the series several books ago, I was persuaded to read #17 and thought that maybe things were back on track. Explosive Eighteen was a massive disappointment. After teasing the reader (for ages!) with hints about what happened in Hawaii, we get a brief (and unsatisfying) few lines to explain why the stagnant love triangle is still in place and then it's on to the rest of the convoluted storyline that seemed to drag on forever. In the past, even when I've been frustrated by the refusal to choose between Ranger & Joe, I've been able to appreciate the screwball comedy. This book lacked the laugh-out-loud moments that, for me, partially redeemed a few of the books beyond #9. In 18, I spent a lot of time feeling like I was waiting for a punchline that never arrived. Worse, still, is the fact that Joe & Ranger have been reduced to shadows of their former selves and neither one bears much resemblance to the alpha-types I knew and loved. They just seemed worn out and as tired of dealing with Stephanie as I am. I cannot for the life of me figure out what either man is supposed to find so irresistible about Stephanie that they would be willing to settle for whatever crumbs she's willing to give them. Even without being able to blame a "curse," Stephanie is still casually sleeping with both of them, willing to commit to neither of them and they just jump in and rescue her incompetent self over and over again. (IMO) It's not charming, it's not cute, it's not endearing and I spent most of the book being bored by the litany of junk food she consumes and wondering why she was so stupid that she allowed the same guy to steal her car over and over again.
Without totally giving away the ending, I will say that I thought it was a lame attempt to persuade readers that an actual choice might be in the making. I have made peace with the fact that as long as the books are selling, no choice will be made and the characters will continue to devolve until they just make an occasional appearance to yank her out of burning buildings with a "Babe!" or "Cupcake!" and not much else.
I don't think anyone expects literary genius from these books, but I sincerely miss the comedic spark, the genuinely funny situations, and the depth/heart that was present in the early books and lost along the way.
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