Heartstrings and Diamond Rings - Jane Graves Sweet mother Mary, now I remember why I typically won't touch contemporaries with a ten-foot pole these days. My generation is really taking a beating in the self-worth department, if this book is any indication. I remember being bombarded with cheesy "Girl power!" testimonials and Oprah telling me I don't need a man to be happy in my youth.

Far be it from me to call the Spice Girls liars, but if Jane Graves says so ...

Heartstrings and Diamonds Rings is the story of dried-up spinster - I mean, "lonely" thirty-something Alison Carter, who wants to get married so much that she'd probably consider a potted plant to get the job done. Alison, like all the heroines in contemporary romancelandia, is unlucky in love. All she wants to do is find her soulmate and get married, pronto, then make gaggles of snotty children and move into a house with a pretty white picket fence. Why is life SO HARD? The men she dates are pretty much like, "Uh, Alison, your desperation is showing. It's actually blanketing you and displaying flashing lights making out the word SPINSTER in place of your face. I think maybe it would be best if I dated a woman who wasn't already checking my blood type." So Alison, dumped once again, cries and moans about how undesirable and lonely she is to her - wait for it - cats. (I feel like I'm in the cliche machine, and it's been set to spin cycle.) Finally, after all kinds of woe-is-me angsting, Alison decides to take matters into her own desperate, dried-up hands ... by hiring a match-maker. Brandon Scott is an unsuccessful home-flipper (or something along those lines) who's running his deceased grammy's matchmaking business to make a quick fortune. When Alison walks into Brandon's office and spills her desperation all over him, he promises to find her the perfect match. Unfortunately, Brandon is about as good at matchmaking as Alison is at deflecting crazy cat lady accusations. As expected, Brandon sets her up on several disastrous dates, each one worse than the last. And then Alison starts to wonder if her inept matchmaker is the man to fill the hole in her ... heart.

Would it have been so hard for Graves to write Alison as anything other than a boy-crazy empty shell? At first, I thought that the cat lady implications, the mental breakdowns over bad dates, and the silly talk about NEEDING to get married because being unmarried is the worst thing ever were a joke. You know, like Graves was parodying the tropes that show up in poorly written romance. But then, to my horror, I realized that Alison is supposed to be taken seriously. Brandon even points out her creepy desperation at one point, and it ends up getting glossed over, apparently because Alison is just SO adorable or something. I don't know. This type of story just isn't my cup of tea. The humor is a little too cutesy, and the unintentional cat lady jokes made me angry. I have cats, too, but Alison's cats are used as a plot device to emphasize her spinsterhood. Stupid. Brandon, for his part, seems like a decent enough guy. I wouldn't let him anywhere near my business, considering that he crashed and burned with the housing market and has the matchmaking senses of a drunk sailor. Still, he genuinely likes Alison even though she's about 95% cray-cray, and I have to respect a guy for that.