Meet The New BFF, Same As The Old BFF: Beautiful Redemption Chapter 2

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.

It's like this. But, uh, ruder.
It’s like this. But, uh, ruder.

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.”

…alrighty then.

Here ya go.
There ya go.

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.

I'm being more than a little unfair, but I really wanted an excuse to link to this song.
I’m being more than a little unfair, but I really wanted an excuse to link to this song.

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.”

doctor who seems legit

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!

...except pretend it's, you know, "him"
…except pretend it’s, you know, “him”

(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?”
I nodded.
“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.

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22 comments

    • Utsutsu Reply

      Nooooooo!!!! * Falls on knees dramatically*

      I wanted to make the geese-pigeon joke. Oh well.

      If Liis (ugh that name) gets any defining clothing, I think a new mug might be in order.

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      • Andreas Reply

        Sorry, but the joke potential was impossible for me to ignore . Especially because in german the words for birds and shagging are homonyms, so the pun writes itself. 😉

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    • AJ Reply

      I think it was a peacock, given the book cover and that tattoo she mentioned she got on her torso. Heh, “peacock”. Wonder if Cami’s a Katy Perry fan.

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  1. wordswithhannah Reply

    First off…why would you become an agent if you really, truly hate being referred to as “agent”? Is this like my teacher in high school who had us call him by his first name because he was a “cool teacher”? I guess it’s supposed to be quirky but what a dumb quirk.

    Second, I’ve been reflecting in my clearly-too-bountiful free time and have come to the conclusion that having an entire series revolving around uniformly hot and interchangeable brothers is super weird and a little concerning to me. I mean, “my best friend’s hot older brother” works as a character type, but writing it eighteen different times about people in the same family is just…am I alone, here? I’m having a hard time articulating why this is so off-putting to me.

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    • Utsutsu Reply

      My biggest problem is that McGuire is about to retcon the shit out of Thomas’s characterization.
      In Beautiful Oblivion, he was basically dumped by Camille for being 1) long distance and 2) way too into his job (I’m ignoring Trenton right now because ugh).

      Sooo we already know that Liis had trouble with her ex (already forgot his name… Jared? No that was The Host… Jeffrey? … Jamiroquai?) because he… was way too into his job? So not only is she inexplicably falling for this guy she barely knows, with the information we have we already know that he has this same exact problem. So why is this relationship supposed to be any different?

      Actually I just thought of something else that’s bothering me. I remember at the end of Beautiful Oblivion Matthew and Ariel spent a lot of time pointing out how boring it is to have a completely obvious twist, and then nonsensically stretching out the reveal until the very last line in the book (TJ is a Maddox OMG).
      BUT we’re seeing the exact same thing here! McGuire hasn’t improved at all! She’s already revealed that Thomas is the person Liis slept with, and that the ASAC (AssAC? Is that the joke? ‘Cause he’s an ass?) is someone named Maddox. So it’s not exactly a shock that we’re going to have a big reveal there. The only thing that’s worth doing this is if Liis somehow has a reaction that warrants this, but we already know McGuire can’t handle basic human emotions so… I don’t see how structuring the story this way is helping anything. Is she assuming people have forgotten about the other books? So we don’t know that Thomas is a Maddox?

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      • wordswithhannah Reply

        I think that in this story, it’s dramatic irony: the audience knows but Liis doesn’t, so we’re supposed to be rubbing our hands together in glee and waiting for the big reveal when she learns. As opposed to the last story, where it was genuinely supposed to be a “shocking twist!!!!” that the guy whose name begins with T belongs to the only family in the world with names that begin with T.

        However, the gymnastics required to keep Liis in the dark about her one-night stand aren’t charming because McGuire lacks the skill to make it so. She desperately wants this to be like a rom-com, but all it’s doing is making me roll my eyes and yell “Get on with it!”

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        • Utsutsu Reply

          Oh man, that was the point I was trying to make, but I forgot the term dramatic irony, and also the point sort of dissolved into the equivalent of frustrated arm waving >_<;

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      • AJ Reply

        The only justification I could make for the plot-related tomfoolery that McGuire attempts with her books is that Beautiful Redemption is possibly supposed to be set sometime during or after the events of…uh…Beautiful Oblivion (almost forgot the title there). In other words, McGuire may have intended this book to be TJ’s side of the story where he and Camille move on from each other (and I gathered this from reading the summaries of the books). Why McGuire writes this way, I cannot fathom. Maybe McGuire has some veeeeeery specific fetishes? Like a sprawling family of interchangeable hotties with T-names and attitude problems? And poor dramatic irony?

        Also, YES. Someone else made a joke about ASAC sounding like “ass”! My hat’s off to you, gentle commentator. Now I’m hoping that TJ will get sacked for being an ass. /patiently awaits the boo’s and the catcalls

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    • bookbaron Reply

      Let me defend your teacher as another teacher who goes by her first name. Sometimes it’s not to be cool. For me, I disliked being addressed by my last name ever. My last name is unusual and sometimes hard to pronounce. My first name actually could work as a last name so I just tell people to call me that. It makes me feel better. It may be a dumb quirk but it’s one I sympathize with.

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  2. Madeline Reply

    Look, telling co-workers to “fuck off” is pretty commonplace in a bar or even retail (trust me). But in a seriously professional workspace, like IDK THE FUKCING FBI, it’s more than a little unprofessional and rude if you ask me.

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      I went through a phase where I used it a lot and my friends eventually got really pissed off. And those were COLLEGE students. If you get college students telling you to tone it down, I can’t imagine the FBI in contrast is like “aw man we live for this shit”

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  3. Utsutsu Reply

    Hate to point it out, but you said Trenton was the last Blando, but it was actually TJ-who-is-actually-Thomas.

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  5. E.H.Taylor Reply

    Apparently, McGuire has never heard of a transition.
    I can’t remember anything about the Maddox family except for the T thing. Was there something with the mother that gave TJ ‘mommy issues’? Does that mean they *all* have mommy issues? Is McGuire literally writing the exact same character over and over while just changing up the name?
    Oh, are they going to have to go undercover together? Maybe pretend to be a married couple in order to make the biggest bust the FBI has ever seen. If that’s not the plot, I will be extremely disappointed.

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  6. shannon Reply

    Shit. I just realized. I am the weirdo that reads the comments section.

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  7. R4punz3l Reply

    Why do all the female protagonists have alliterative names? Abby Abernathy, Camille Camlin, Lisa Lindy. McGuire, you are not Stan Lee, and your female characters have nothing in comments in with superheroes. Unless, like Stan, she’s ter bile at remembering names, and that’s why they all have to start with the same letter!

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