Calendar Girl (August): Chapter 6
We’re now halfway through the 8th Calendar Girl book. In a pretty sharp departure from the norm, Mia’s client isn’t looking for sex and/or a fake girlfriend (conveniently, since Mia’s now in a committed relationship and the story hasn’t totally addressed how they’re gonna handle that). Instead we have the heir to an oil empire whose father left slightly less than half the business to a sister he never knew about, and Mia just so happens to have the same name and birthday as this long-lost sister.
It’s important to go over all that and think about where a story like that seems to be going at the halfway point, because that premise is ridiculous. It’s so implausible, this can really only go one of two ways:
- actually just an improbable, comedy-of-errors-level bit of insanity (I am so on board with this you don’t even know)
- a plot twist that Mia was the real sister the whole time
I would argue that depending on whether you go with option 1 or 2, the tone of your story probably has to go one of the following ways, respectively
- absolutely hilarious (cheesy melodrama optional)
- play it straight, load it up with feels (unintentional melodrama optional)
As much as I’m gunning for route #1, this chapter starts to make it pretty clear that Calendar Girl has misunderstood its strengths to be “people are reading this for the pathos“.
The next week or so we spent getting to know one another. […] mostly I hung out with their family as one big unit, which was strangely wonderful. If Maddy and Wes had been there, I would have felt right at home.
And it’s not subtle about it.
Most of the chapter reads very unsubtly like this, but before we get into it, I need to take a quick moment to tell you that this chapter can’t decide when the hell it is. We get all of these, in this sequence, within the first few pages before any real action starts:
- The next week or so we spent getting to know one another
- Today, when we finished lunch
- Eventually, we loaded back into his truck and drove to his ranch. Exiting the vehicle, I was surprised to see [another family]
- On the man’s hip was the most adorable little girl. Aside from little Isabel, that is. Isabel and I had become fast buddies. This morning, I woke up to her little hand playing with my hair while she lay beside me in bed. “How come you have black hair?” she’d asked.
OH MY GOD, JUST PICK ONE. Is it a week later or is it still the first day? Why did we get a flashback to an earlier scene at the very beginning of a new scene we maybe skipped ahead to anyway? WHEN ARE WE?
Maxwell and his wife introduce Mia to their close friends, Hank, Aspen, and their daughter, Hannah. They are all, as is apparently a goddamn federal requirement for the genre, absurdly attractive:
“Hank and Aspen Jensen”—Max pointed to the male sex-on-a-platter in a pair of tight fitting Wranglers, and then to his wife, God’s perfect woman
Ok, I get how this made more sense back when Calendar Girl was a silly, sexy, fuck-a-month erotic story, but this feels really out of place now that this is a heavy-handed story about FAMILY. Also, “God’s perfect woman”, look, clearly Audrey Carlan is running out of ideas for how to describe all these stupidly attractive people. Just take a break, it’s fine.
“This is my sister, Mia Saunders.” Max once again announced with more pride than the situation deserved.
Mia recognizes their names and tells them that she’s Wes’s new girlfriend. Would you be surprised to learn that the new male character in this story is also just like Christian Grey?
Aspen’s eyes lit up. […] “I love Weston!” She brought both her hands to her chest.
Her husband grumbled next to her, a real carnal, “me Tarzan, you Jane” type growl. “What’s this about loving another man, angel?” His tone was dead serious
We get it. You liked Fifty Shades. The dream world of Calendar Girl is one where every man is a hunky alpha male who is either 1) crazy possessive and insecure about the one he loves or 2) French. We get it. We’re super horny now.
Mia and the other two women (Aspen and Maxwell’s wife, Cyndi) go off on their own to have a drink and a chat. Mia brings up Maddy in conversation and the book becomes not subtle again. I know I’ve said that once or twice before, but I really mean not subtle.
Cyndi’s face paled […] “You have a sister from your mother?”
Yo, I am pretty certain no normal, English-speaking human who has had a conversation before would feel the need to specify a sister “from your mother” if they didn’t have to squeeze in some totally-not-foreshadowing-omg-why-would-you-even-think-that.
“Max didn’t mention that.” She choked on a half-sob. What was with these people? It was like mentioning the word sister was a hot button to emotional breakdown.
“I have to get to Max. Jesus, this is the reason he’s been so strange.”
I looked around, not knowing what the big deal was. “If you say so”
Mia feels a little weirded out and homesick, so she decides to give Maddy a call. The call barely begins before more totally normal human behavior happens.
Turning around, I realized I wasn’t alone. Cyndi and Aspen sat, watching me. Mostly Cyndi, as though she were hanging on every word I’d said.
This post is running a little long, so would anyone care if I just said the phone call introduces a subplot where Maddy and her fiance Matt are fighting because Matt wants to move up the date of the wedding to an even more absurdly early time and got sad when she didn’t because he worried she didn’t really love him. (Seriously, every male character. Fucking thanks, Fifty Shades. And society too, to be fair, but also Fifty Shades.) It also resolves this subplot with Mia advising Maddy to feel comfortable talking with Matt about how she feels and that it’s ok to disagree and assert what you want in a relationship, but this becomes a moot point because Matt just overhears their phone call and comes in to apologize to Maddy anyway. So we’re all caught up on Maddy’s personal hell, I guess. Cool.
Weirdly, the phone call seems to be more of a plot device for Maxwell’s family to do yet another super weird, super not-foreshadowing thing: offer to fly Mia’s sister and fiance out to Texas with them.
“Let’s bring your girl out to Texas,” Max said into my hair where he kissed my temple the way I imagined a brother would do for his real sister. But I wasn’t his sister
Mia points out this book is fucking ridiculous. Maxwell points out that this book is about how men should always be able to get what they want. Tell me I’m wrong:
“What? No. You can’t do that. You don’t even know them. Besides, why would you want to have my sister and her fiancé here? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Would it make you happy? You said you missed her.” […]
“Well, yeah, but this trip is not about me. It’s about you and saving your assets.”
That’s when nice, sweet, down-to-earth Max changed. […] he clenched his jaw so tight he could probably cut glass. “My assets mean nothing without the love of my family. So we’ll bring your sister and her fella here. End of story. Cyndi, darlin’, will you make that happen?” […]
“Yes, honey. Mia and I will make it happen tomorrow. Go on, go calm down. Have a cigar and a scotch with Hank. I’ll talk with her,” she responded as if I weren’t in the room.
Mia decides that she is done with this and storms off to go to her room. Cyndi tries to catch up to her and Mia snaps at her that she needs some space.
“Can you just give me that, or do you need your husband to order you to leave me alone?” I snapped.
Cyndi gasps, nods, and leaves. Mia immediately feels bad for taking her anger out on Cyndi, who didn’t deserve it. Mia tries to process her confusion and rationalize her feelings. Calendar Girl tries to make things make sense too.
Maddy’s happiness had been the one thing most important to me.
This would be more convincing if every single book in the series didn’t feature Mia turning down someone’s offer to pay off the debt so she wouldn’t have to spend an entire year away from her sister who misses her and needs her.
[Were] Max and Cyndi attempting to be friendly? I guessed so. Hell, I didn’t know. We hadn’t been what one would consider friends very long.
I mean, they’re your clients, so no.
Why did they care so much about a person who wasn’t really their family?
One more for the road!