It’s been said that there are only seven basic stories and everything we write falls somewhere within their confines. I’m generally a bit more optimistic about our creative prowess, but sometimes there are stories so formulaic that I think even seven basic plots is generous and perhaps it’s more like four.
Broken Star, by Joann Lee, is a plot that has been written a hundred times over. There are two characters, an undeniable spark of attraction, external danger, internal conflict and a litany of other reasons that should prevent these characters from being together. This time the roles were filled by Lynn, a pop star, and Alexis, a police detective and single mother. They are initially brought together by the threat of a serial rapist in their neighborhood, but both also have dark secrets from their pasts that they must address.
It was the kind of book where I knew what was going to happen at least twenty pages in advance and while I would have liked to have been surprised, everything came to pass more or less how I thought it would. Once we had jumped through all the predictable hoops and wrapped up more than enough loose ends, the ending itself was so saccharine that I could barely stick with it.
Lee’s got some pieces working for her. She clearly knows how to work through a plot, and the pacing of the book, which could have lagged unbearably, was light and effective. The dialogue was mostly all lines I felt like I’d heard before, but there were moments of refreshing individuality that I would have liked to see more of.
While the plot is entirely predictable and overused, it is overused because it is exciting and romantic. Lee could have gotten away with it, if she hadn’t let the storyline consume the piece. The book was all contrivance, slogging from event to event like a tired gymnast going through their once-flashy routine. The characters tried to be charming, but they were too stuck in the confines of their situation to have any more personality than the requirements of their life struggles. If her formula hadn’t been so rigid and her protagonists such cookie-cutter characters, I think the book really could have flown.