You guys! I finished a book! (I kind of hated it, but that’s not what’s important here.) Trice Hickman’s Unexpected Interruptions had some fatal flaws in structure but a number of interesting elements. I’m honestly not sure if I’d read another book by the author. I might, because Hickman’s voice is clear, engaging and consistent. I might not because I’m all for flawed heroines, but spitefully self destructive basket cases rub me the wrong way. (Wait, is that a spoiler?) There are two covers for this book. I’m using the one that shows the heroine front and center as an independent woman. The author’s website uses the one that primarily shows Victoria’s ass. I’m not disagreeing, but I do prefer the less accurate one. (To begin with, Victoria should be darker than Parker, and Ted is far too young.)
Victoria is a successful corporate type. She’s the daughter of a light skinned mother and a darker skinned father. Colorism has been a theme of her life, leaving deep scars she cannot overcome. Her father is supportive and loving, successful on his own terms as an independent banker. Victoria has struggled to break away from his dreams for her life and build her own as an event planner. She is making long term plans to begin her business when her employer’s new CEO shows a sudden interest in her career. (If I may pause to make a broad generalization, I have noticed that romances authored by black women are more likely to include successful women who excel at their jobs without apology. The personality disputes of the workplaces are often featured as secondary conflicts. Sexuality is presented in a positive way free of associative shaming. It’s interesting. I’ve had to adjust some assumptions about why the genre contains so much slut shaming since I expanded my author selections.)
Ted, her boss, is a complete creep. I hated him when the book began and I hated him when the book ended. He’s a predator who accidentally hospitalizes her early on then searches her home like a stalker. Hickman presents him as a powerful man who takes steps to get what he wants. He’s married and serially unfaithful. While infidelity is a hot button for Victoria she has no issues with Ted’s because his wife is an utterly unrealistic caricature of the Man-Trap-Abortion-Junkie variety. Ted spends the book emotionally manipulating Victoria while narrowing her choices into paths that give him access to her time. He’s unprofessional, unlikeable and significantly older than she is. Hickman goes slightly homophobic at several points in Ted’s storyline as Victoria struggles to explain why she doesn’t want to be with him. Her friends think it’s because he’s white. Her friends are terrible judges of character.
Parker is Victoria’s other option. He’s a light skinned successful surgeon with a reputation for being hard to catch. When he meets Victoria he falls hard and fast. Victoria decides to punish him for the sins of her ex-fiance, her mother’s family and society in general. At one point Victoria rages at Parker for cutting his hair without asking her permission. Her argument is that she likes his hair and it was selfish, inconsiderate and indicative of his failure to consider other people. Parker’s argument (rightfully) is that it’s his damn head. Unfortunately Parker quickly turns to groveling. Victoria attacks him for making fact based objections to her hypocrisy. Victoria flips out until he’s begging, then disregards everything he’s said. This is the basis of their relationship. Victoria makes irrational accusations and Parker apologizes. Victoria refuses to forgive him and he grovels. It’s an abusive relationship, with Victoria being the abuser. Late in the book Parker makes an uncharacteristic (yet understandable) choice that reads more like Hickman’s desperation to justify Victoria’s unbalanced emotional reactions than a likely result of the scene as set up.
Unexpected Interruptions has deeper problems than it’s lack of a healthy relationship. Hickman’s pacing suffers as she has Victoria muse on events the reader has not been shown. She does not have a deft hand with foreshadowing, leaving the reader confused instead of intrigued. After several chapters of a strong and loving family a reference to a dysfunctional childhood makes no sense. It’s several chapters more before the alleged dysfunction is revealed and it’s so out of line with Victoria’s reaction to the (admittedly painful) revelation that the reader becomes even more impatient with her. Ted is such a creep that I could quote half the book before I got bored. Parker needs an intervention. There’s no happy ending for these characters. Neither Ted and Victoria nor Victoria and Parker have what it takes to make a healthy life with each other. (As there is a second book featuring the same characters six years later, the author may agree.) Hickman gets a B for her side characters, an F for her leads and a C for the overall reading experience. If I wasn’t determined to finish the book I would have bailed at the half way point.
This post originally appeared at Love In The Margins.