Hopefully you enjoyed our surprise return to the world of Jamie McGuire’s Super Maddox Bros World yesterday! I thought Ariel did a great job remembering any details about Thomas that were hinted at in Beautiful Disaster and Beautiful Oblivion, because I sure as fuck didn’t.
Beautiful Redemption: Chapter 2
First things first, there is NONE of that mysterious boy Liis met in this chapter. Or is there?
I found the only empty desk [at my new office], vacated by the last agent who hadn’t meshed with the infamous Assistant Special Agent in Charge, who we referred to as the ASAC. I had heard about him all the way in Chicago, but it would take more than a bad temper to scare me away from a chance at a promotion.
Or a chance at love.
But no, this chapter is mostly about meeting that other McGuire novel staple: the abrasive best friend who doesn’t take any shit! NO SHIT WHATSOEVER.
“I’m Val Taber. Don’t call me Agent Taber, or we can’t be friends.”
“Shall I call you Val then?”
She made a face. “What else would you call me?”
“Agent Taber,” a tall, slender man said as he walked by. He smirked as if he knew what would follow.
“Fuck off,” she said
In case you’re already wondering, yes. If this chapter is any indication, “Fuck off” is actually her catchphrase.
“Agent Taber,” a woman with a tight bun said as she walked by.
“Fuck off,” she said again.
Also, we finally learn what our protagonist’s stupid name is. And in a series that has characters named America, Brazil, etc…. well…
“You’re the intelligence analyst? Lisa Lindy?”
Oh, well, it’s a little silly, but that’s not so-
“Liis,” I said, cringing. […] “Like geese but with an L.”
Liis gets down to work. One thing I gotta say I like about these books, it does show their characters actually doing their jobs, which is a nice subtle way to get to know a fictional person. Unless the author falls into the apparently very tempting “try to make someone using a computer sound interesting” trap.
I opened the unlabeled white binder and pulled a CD from a plastic sheath before slipping it into the drive. As the CD loaded, I clicked New Document.
There’s so much to love about this, but my favorite part is that in the mid-2010s, apparently the FBI is still using CDs.
And because McGuire has a weird gift for making so much as “character has a job” seem like an utterly implausible detail.
Being a female federal agent who specialized in languages had all but rolled out the red carpet for my transfer, but I had been instructed not to mention my specialization to anyone unless I had approval from my supervisor. […] As far as I knew, Maddox was the only agent who knew about my true purpose in San Diego.
…why? The solution to making her favors-called-in transfer seem less like strings got pulled to make it happen is… to not tell anyone what she does in the office? Look, I don’t want to tell the FBI how to do strategy – or use modern technology – or anything, but everything we’ve learned about how they do things so far sounds questionable at best.
We learn a bit more about what exactly Liis does (she translates and writes reports on recordings), what her passions are (“Violent crime was what I loved” – to each their own, Liis), and even get a little bit of fanservice (the men in the recording are talking about their boss, the Las Vegas gangster Benny! Whom Travis Maddox famously gunned down while dual wielding glocks, in what is easily the funniest scene from a BBGT book ever.)
Val continues to firmly establish that she is one quirky, tough-talkin’ motherfucker, like every other Jamie McGuire character, so it’s starting to feel… let’s say “shtick-y”.
“Late for our first lunch date,” she said.
“I was just… I lost track of time. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry doesn’t put a greasy cheeseburger in my gut.”
What a quirky, tough-talkin’ way to remind us that adding detail makes for better prose, but it does not make for more natural dialogue!
They go to lunch and talk about – what else between two total strangers who’ve talked for five minutes at best – their love lives! And it’s totally not forced at all!
“Try the fries. Dear God, try the fries. They are so good. I crave them at night sometimes when I’m alone, which is more often than you’d think.”
Actually, let’s keep talking about forced dialogue for a spell..
“Speaking of, do you have a guy? Or girl? I’m just asking.”
I shook my head.
“Did you? Have you ever?”
“Kissed a girl?”
Val cackled. “No! Have you been in a relationship?”
I’m not sure how any of this could have implied the next line in the conversation. Like, I get how it’s close enough, but I’m just not seeing this as dialogue between two humans taking part in the same conversation? Or even talking especially like humans?
“I’m a great friend, but you’re going to have to open up more.”
Liis reluctantly goes into her life story. She transferred from Chicago both to move up in the ranks and to move on from a shit relationship. She had a perfectly normal relationship with her parents (a new one for a Jamie McGuire novel) but her seven-year relationship with her ex ended with “No drama. Our breakup was just as boring as our relationship.” IS IT A NEW BLANDO? I THINK SO!
(In case you’re new here, “Blando” is blog shorthand for the rival male love interest that’s in every single Jamie McGuire novel, despite never really seeming like someone the main character is ever actually interested in, or has been given any interesting qualities either. Oddly, Thomas himself was the last book’s Blando, but we didn’t know he was Thomas until the most ill-advised twist ending we’ve seen on the blog. So it’ll be interesting to see how Beautiful Redemption reconciles… that.)
Anyway, let’s learn about Liis’s ex-boyfriend who will probably totally not be coming back in this story.
“Seven years. No ring?”
“Kind of,” I said, making a face.
“Ah. You’re married to the job. Betty Bureau.”
“So was he.”
Val puffed out a laugh. “You were dating an agent?”
“Yes. He was SWAT.”
BORING. Let’s have a conversation that makes no sense!
“Do your parents suck?” She covered her mouth. “Oh my hell, they’re not dead, are they?”
I squirmed in my seat. “Um… no. I had a normal childhood. My parents love me and each other. I’m an only child.”
Val sighed. “Thank Christ. I might as well ask the next offensive question.”
“No, I wasn’t adopted,” I droned. “Lindy is Irish. My mother is Japanese.”
“Is your dad a ginger?” She smirked.
I glared at her. “You only get two offensive questions on the first day.”
Ahhhh that was perplexing! Ok. Back to important matters. For instance, when is our Maddox brother gonna show up?
“Don’t piss off Maddox. He’s the Assistant Special Agent in Charge.”
“So I’ve heard,” I said, brushing my hands against each other to wipe off the salt.
“All the way in Chicago?”
“It’s justifiable gossip. He is a huge, gigantic, enormous asshole.”
Sounds about right.
“He has mommy issues, and he was burned bad a while ago. He wouldn’t look at your tits if you flashed him.”
“So, he hates women.”
“No,” she said, looking off in thought. “He’s just sworn them off. Doesn’t want to get hurt again, I imagine.”
PRO WRITER TIP: If you have to include a line of dialogue in every book you write explaining why your romantic male lead is not a misogynist, you might not really be addressing the problem.
“Like I said, he was burned by some girl in his hometown— Camille,” she said the name as if it were poison in her mouth. “I don’t know the details. No one talks about it.”
But you conveniently can read all about them in Beautiful Oblivion! Ask for it in your local bookstore!
The chapter between these two strangers who have apparently become BFFs over that conversation ends with Liis admitting that she had a one night stand last night with someone who lives in her building.
“I knew it,” she said.
“You knew what?”
She leaned forward and crossed her arms, resting them on the table. “That we are going to be great friends.”
If you say so, book.