Thursday, May 16, 2024

Return to Mariposa by Anne Stuart


Anne Stuart is one of my favorite authors, so when I found out completely by accident that she had released a new book (very quietly, apparently, and with zero fanfare), I was SHOOKETH. Especially since she appeared to be going back to grassroots by making this a first person gothic (whaaaaat??) and it has the most Colleen Hoover-looking cover I've ever seen that wasn't slapped on a Colleen Hoover book.

RETURN TO MARIPOSA is about a woman named Kitty, who has the most bizarre chain of degrees I've ever seen: BA in English, Master's in contemporary Spanish lit, and then 3/4 of a PhD in, I kid you not, "plant eugenics" with "an emphasis in olive trees." She tells us, the readers, that she got this degree because she comes from a super rich family that lives as expatriates in Spain on a massive estate called Mariposa, with an adjoining and successful olive tree farm.

But for some reason, Kitty is ostracized from the family. It's not super clear why except her mother made her leave early one summer and apparently her grandfather decided to Take That Personally(TM). Every year through her cousin, Bella, Kitty has asked to come back and every year (through Bella), she is told no. In addition to Bella, she also has two adoptive stepcousins, both brothers, named Ian and Marcus. When they were young, Kitty had crushes on both of them, but they didn't like her because she was chubby. Instead, they called her "Podge" because she was pudgy, and treated her like shit. What assholes.

Anyway, now the grandfather is dying and Bella gets the BRILLIANT idea that they should Parent Trap the shit out of their dying grandfather as a chance for Kitty to make amends and get closure while incognito. This plan is ridiculous, but Kitty, longing for home, doesn't question it. But almost immediately, her return starts to feel super sus. Apparently Bella was dating a mobster, and grandfather maybe doesn't hate Kitty as much as everyone thought, and both of the stepcousins are still very hot. Also, someone might be trying to kill her for reasons. HUZZAH!

This book takes a while to get rolling and it is BIZARRE. First of all, no way is this woman twenty-eight. This woman who uses words like "blandishments" and "sobriquet" and has apparently had sex but never been kissed with tongue??? (As an adult, she is SHOCKED to be Frenched; like, girl, you're acting like a dick sprouted from his mouth Alien-style and beejed you???). She is also SO resistant to the idea that she might be in danger. At one point, she says "no one is trying to kill me!" after a stranger at a bar literally takes her aside and tells her he wants to kill her AND someone tampers with the brakes of her car. People are so quick to call heroines TSTL, and throw the term around like rice at a wedding, but I'm afraid that Kitty might actually be a whole-ass onigiri. 

That said, this was addictive to read and so cheesy that I couldn't put it down. Is it plausible? NO. Did I read it anyway because my fave wrote it? Yes. Ian is douchier than a lot of her other heroes and I didn't really like him all that much, but he has a lot of the hallmarks of a classic Anne Stuart Hero(TM). The sex scenes were also more descriptive than the usual Anne Stuart novel and I thought Stuart did a good job showing the angst of crushing on a guy who was unattainable and treated you like garbage when you were young. (Honestly, first crush might be a favorite trope of mine.) I also thought there was some halfway decent foreshadowing and some interesting plot points that felt like nostalgic throwbacks to old school gothic romances.

I wouldn't recommend this to people who are new to this author, but if you like her books already and enjoy a classic old skool romp, then you'll probably find this as entertaining as I did.

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars

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