The Sweetheart Bargain (A Sweetheart Sisters Novel)

Image of The Sweetheart Bargain (A Sweetheart Sisters Novel)
Release Date: 
September 3, 2013
Reviewed by: 

“Ms. Jump is an exceptional, humorous romantic writer.”

Shirley Jump didn't have the willpower to diet nor the talent to master undereye concealer, so she bowed out of a career in television and opted instead for a career where she could be paid to eat at her desk—writing.

She started out in journalism, selling her first article at the age of 11 and dreaming of being the next Jane Pauley. She hosted two of her own shows on the local cable channel and was the cohost of a late night comedy show for two years.

After writing 3,000 articles and two nonfiction books, Shirley grew too dependent on her robe and fuzzy slippers and decided a career as a freelance writer suited her better.

Then she got married. And had two kids.

Humor became the only thing that got her through the mashed potato flingfests and toilet paper decorating sprees. At first, seeking revenge on her children for their grocery store tantrums, she sold embarrassing essays about her children to anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Working Woman's Soul and Chocolate for Women II; however, it wasn't enough to feed her growing addiction to writing funny.

So she turned to the world of romance novels, where messes are (usually) cleaned up before The End and no one is calling anyone a doodoo head. In the worlds Shirley gets to create and control, the children listen to their parents, the husbands always remember holidays and the housework is magically done by elves.

Shirley Jump is not only a prolific writer of romance novels, she is also one of the most popular romance writers in America. Her heart hugging books are frequently on the bestseller lists. In spite of the rather tepid titles to Jump’s series (The Sweetheart Sisters, The Sweetheart Bargain) her fans will be delighted with her new book.

Ms. Jump packs a great deal into her work. For instance, she creates more characters than most romance writers. Further her secondary characters are important—sometimes they even steal the scene from the main lovers, Olivia and Luke.

The lesser characters interact with their own stories, but also “rub elbows” with the main focus at the right time. Here, too, Shirley Jump is an alert writer working with elder characters as carefully as she handles the young lovers. No detail is too small to highlight the direction that this author chooses.

Ms. Jump is also keenly aware of settings, like the old wreck of a house that Olivia inherits or the lighthouse where lovers meet. In her talented hands the buildings seem like characters. They bode well or ill to the human characters.

Ms. Jump uses them to move the plot, too. The house restoration is in waves: It can be done, and it can’t be done. The lighthouse is lovers’ a haven or towering threat to ships. As an author who is successful juggling all these elements, Ms. Jump is certainly confident. Her care in The Sweetheart Bargain indicates that she is having great fun as she writes.

The book’s anecdotes of the older generation provide high humor, meant to lightly satirize active seniors in action. In The Sweetheart Bargain, the humor is a showcase for Ms. Jump’s sharp wit. Her senior characters may tipple a bit. The ladies may protest –too much—that they dislike a certain gentleman. The petty arguments among them are always funny, bordering on silly, but loveable—at least silly as real seniors sometimes are. But the author is careful to keep deep dislike out of their characters in order to show their camaraderie. They are, at the end, more sweethearts than the passionate lovers.

The Sweetheart Bargain differs from most other romances in some ways. The lovers are balanced: Two men, Luke and Mike and two women, Olivia and her sister, Diane. This is unlike other “three’s a crowd” romantic devices.

Mystery is the focus from the beginning, and it is well written though out the book. It is a puzzle of identity and smaller clues come together in pleasing pieces. Ms. Jump handles them well. All of these things, the characters, human or canine and the questions that hang open until the mysteries are solved not only blend well, but also result in a torrid pace, making the book one of those that is hard to put down.

Ms. Jump shortchanges herself with respect to one area reader audience. The offending passages are sexual, sex detailed as it is in erotic books, free of euphuisms. These scenes are out of place in the sweet romantic mode that Ms. Jump had in hand. In fact, in one line in an advanced lovemaking scene, Olivia abruptly announces that she hasn’t bought a condom. This line and others like it sound out of place, i.e. a quick reference to reality ruining heated lovemaking. Another reason the sex scenes are out of place is that the ideal readership would include teens, many of them are quite young for such explicit scenes.

This fault may reduce the book’s readership; nevertheless, the book is a marvelous read for adult romance fans, and Ms. Jump is an exceptional, humorous romantic writer. Her fans will look for her next book The Sweetheart Rules next February.