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Book Review: Three Little Words by Susan Mallery (Book twelve of the Fool’s Gold series)

Title: Three Little Words
Author: Susan Mallery
Series: Fool’s Gold
Genre: contemporary romance
Published: 2013
Rating: 3 ½ stars

I always want to like Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold books more than I actually do. Don’t get me wrong—the setting is charming, the small-town feel is idyllic, and the characters are fun and quirky. They’re feel-good books, to be sure. I have enjoyed much about these books—obviously, because I keep coming back for more. Lately, though, their “cookie cutter” feel is beginning to overpower their overall charm for me.

They start out with two characters—our hero and heroine—who aren’t in/don’t want to be in/never can be in a true relationship. In Three Little Words, it’s Ford Hendrix and Isabel Beebe. Ford, recently out of the military, has never been in love and therefore assumes he never can be. Isabel is fresh from a divorce, and only in town temporarily—she’s getting the family bridal boutique ready to be sold and then she’s back off to NYC where she’ll begin her own business with a designer friend.

Next our hero and heroine start some sort of relationship that for whatever reason isn’t a “real” one. In this case, Ford’s mother is anxious to marry off her last two single children—Ford and his divorced brother Kent—and Ford and Isabel agree to have a fake relationship to keep her off of Ford’s back.

The hero and heroine, of course, always know the deal—they will not/cannot fall in love…but of course they do. In Fool’s Gold, it’s almost always the heroine who realizes it first, but she knows that she can never, ever tell the hero. Because then the gig would be up. (It’s usually at this point that the heroine loses some of her appeal for me. Her inner monologue tends to turn a bit maudlin.)

But he finds out, and…leaves. The heroine is sad, so all the women of the town (okay, not all of them but it feels pretty darn close) converge on her house with frosty alcoholic beverages and yummy snacks. They drink together and commiserate with the heroine’s plight.

Someone/something/the entire town helps the hero see the error of his ways. He rushes back to her, declares his love, and FINIS! story over.

In between each of these steps, though, we also see a huge amount of set-up for future books. We’re practically hit over the head with future love possibilities galore, and it really begins to feel like they detract from the time spent on the current story. Oh, and there’s always an older town resident or two running in and out of scenes, doing things that are vaguely disturbing: octogenarians drooling over twenty- and thirty-something guys and pinching their butts, mothers setting up a booth at a town festival to get applicants for their sons’ hands in marriage, mayors who freely admit to knowing everything and blithely encouraging the rest of the townspeople to just accept it….

Kind of scary.

Still, this installment had more going for it than some—mainly Ford and Isabel and their backstory. Once upon a time—fourteen years ago—Ford was engaged to Isabel’s older sister. Maeve called off the wedding at the last minute, and Isabel, who had harbored a crush on Ford forever, was devastated. She wanted to make everything better for him. When Ford left town to join the Navy days later, she began writing him letters. She wrote letters to him for ten years, pouring out her heart to him in each and every one.

I know I’m only fourteen, but I love you. I’ll love you forever and I’ll write you every day. Or at least once a week.

Ford never responds, and finally when Isabel believes her current boyfriend is going to propose, she stops writing.

The letters are a really sweet touch. There’re excerpts of some of them scattered throughout the book, and Ford uses the “I’ll love you forever” comment to tease Isabel more than once.

Ford comes off as over-the-top confident of himself and his abilities, and though some reviews I read found this to be annoying, this was one of my favorite things about him. I loved his snarky comments. He totally didn’t take himself at all seriously, and I found his cockiness endearing. What can I say? He reminded me of Han Solo, one of my all-time favorite movie heroes. I’m a sucker for the confident ones with a touch of bad boy.

For the most part the childhood crush-all grown up troupe was nicely done here. With a little less set-up for future novels and a little more originality in the overall plot arc, this would definitely have gotten a higher rating. It’s a sweet, fell-good story. If you are a die hard Fool’s Gold fan, you’ll like it. If you like sweet contemporaries, it’ll do.

In a nutshell: Though this is definitely the strongest of the current trilogy, it still falls prey to the too-predictable Fool’s Gold formula. The charismatic hero and the adorable-ness of Isabel’s letters bumped it up to a 3 ½ star rating.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

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