I read a lot of romance novels – a lot – and I absolutely love the stuff. Trouble is, romance novels tend to be deficient in everything but the romance, and I’m all about well-rounded stories. So the really great thing about Making Waves by Tawna Fenske is that it has everything good romance novels need; character depth, a fast paced and entertaining plot, sexy and meaningful romance, and all the cleverness and originality you can shake a sparkling purple phallus at.
The novel focuses on 37-year-old Juli Flynn, 42-year-old Alex Bradshaw, and the various misadventures they find themselves in on their quest to overcome insecurities, seasickness, and unemployment. After being been laid off from her position in marketing, Juli uses her severance to travel to St. Johns and scatter her recently departed Uncle Frank’s ashes. At the same time, Alex and his coworkers – Jake Grinshaw, Cody “Cookie” Wilkins, and Phyllis Prescott – have lost their jobs and their pensions at the hands of unscrupulous former boss Tom Portelli. Broke and (rightfully) pissed, Alex decides to lead the ragtag group on a mission to sneak onboard of and loot Tom’s cargo boat – which carries an impressive illegal shipment of diamonds – for revenge. Where is this boat going to dock, you ask? On a small, unnamed island in the Virgin Islands, of course… ohoho, surely you saw that coming! Juli and Alex first meet at a seaside bar in St Johns, and naturally, nothing is ever the same.
There are a lot of stereotypical archetypes that spring up in romance novels, but you won’t find them here. Instead, every single character in this book is completely realistic and completely insane, but in a good way. Juli has the attention span of a chipmunk and the maturity of a woman half her age; Cody is a former Seattle Seahawks tight end who also happens to be a master chef (and likes to be called “Cookie”, apparently); Jake is balding, doughy, and awkward, and Phyllis is the fifty-something, toned former Olympic steeplechaser that has the hots for Jake. Alex is… well, he’s the green eyed, handsome sailor man. He could be missing all his front teeth and I’d still be all over him. Together, the characters create rapport that is funny and silly to read.
Fenske definitely wins points for her realistic and offbeat portrayals of mature men and women living their lives and falling in love. Juli and Alex are much older than the protagonists from other romances I’ve read – usually the hero is around early-thirties at the most – and Alex is even beginning to gray, but neither of these things detracts from the sexiness of the relationship at all. Fenske’s lighthearted and clever writing creates sex scenes that are both classy and arousing; she never explicitly identifies certain body parts or what those parts are doing; this way, the reader has to fill in the blanks themselves to an extent. Once they do, however, they’ll end up panting and fanning themselves and wishing there was a hot sailor in the room to rub oil on.
Any issues I had with the novel are teeny tiny. One example happens halfway through the book, when Juli disables the only laptop aboard the boat in order to prevent Phyllis or anyone else from doing a background check on her. Sounds reasonable enough until you consider the fact that Phyllis is a software engineer and computer technician, and it took her way too long to both figure out what was wrong with her computer and then to fix it. The incident seems like an overly convenient way of preserving the intrigue for a couple dozen more pages. The climax is a bit disappointing. I expect romantic comedies to have a certain level of suspension of disbelief, especially when they involve modern pirates and sparkling purple phalluses, but this novel’s climax is so rife with baffling and unnecessary characters that I couldn’t enjoy it, Malcolm especially. They detracted attention from the true stars of the story and honestly, only made the plot harder to follow.
All in all, though, Making Waves is touching, sexy, hilarious, and yes – very, very weird. Bottom line: Making Waves by Tawna Fenske is hilarious, hot, and offbeat romantic comedy at its best and just perfect for the beach. Four out of five stars!
You can read Tawna’s awesome blog here.