“Twang” by John Schlimm gives readers an intimate look into country music royalty, going behind-the-scenes with the legendary Field Sisters, superstar newlyweds Hope and Thad, and on a dirt-hunt with gossip columnist Billie Blotter.
The story switches between the perspectives of these main characters. Salome and Willa Field are wildly different – one a tiara-wearing queen of country, the other a black-clad rebel. Hope is a chart-topping singer, blindly in love with her husband and ready to step out of the spotlight to prepare for her coming baby. Through it all is conniving Billie Blotter, whose trustworthy appearance and years of loyalty belie his true plan of outing everyone’s secrets.
Drama and humor lace the book to create a story of scandal, shock and intrigue.
But “Twang” breaks one of the central rules of good storytelling – “simple story, complex characters.” This book does just the opposite. The storyline weaves between complicated, dramatic situations and constantly introduces new characters that are hard to keep track of.
Even the main characters lack the deeper character development I crave in good chick-lit. “Twang” lacks the insight into its characters that reveals the personal development and thought processes that make readers fall in love with a character. While “Twang” has a clever storyline, the depth stops there.
While reading the novel I wondered if John Schlimm would be as successful as other writers in code switching seamlessly from gender to gender. After a few chapters, I couldn’t ignore the underdeveloped female characters any longer.
Here’s an example. In one scene Hope is with her manager, Bolling, and husband, Thad, discussing her upcoming retirement from country music. They’re joking about whether or not Hope will decide to do infomercials for cosmetics:
“Yes,” Bolling said, giving Hope a glare of mock-disapproval. “When she sets her mind on something she certainly goes full steam ahead. She told me she wasn’t going to make a living telling bored middle-aged housewives how to flatten out their wrinkled faces or smooth over their cottage cheese thighs.”
“She just plans on becoming a bored housewife herself is all,” Thad deadpanned, turning and focusing again on the soundboard in front of him.
Hope thought she detected a tinge of anger in her husband’s voice as he spoke this time, but she chose to ignore it.
It’s the last line that represents how Schlimm missed the mark for his target audience. What interesting female character would ever simply let that go? Sure, she may not say something to her husband, but where is the worry? Where is the over-analysis? The scene simply ends there. And so does Hope’s development.
Here at ChickLitandWine.com we’ve promised our readers that we’ll never give away the endings – but we will give away if they aren’t worth reading. “Twang” lacks the storytelling, characters, and that-something-special that make a good chick-lit novel.
Rather than drink the wine that’s as immature as “Twang,” save it for sautéing.
Coming soon: Chick Lit and Wine’s summer must reads!