Monday, July 30, 2012

To Spoil or Not to Spoil—That is the Question!

Roughly a million years ago when I was five, my parents took us to see a movie, a musical. You know—singing, dancing, a love story.  
It began with flashy color and edgy music. There were boys dancing in alleyways and suave Puerto Ricans doing the mambo. Sassy girls swished their brightly colored skirts. And to top it off, there was this girl named Maria and this boy named Tony. And they fell in love—just like that! I was lost in a magical world of color and music and romance. 

Then suddenly on-screen two boys, Riff and Bernardo, were stabbed and died bloody deaths. I barely had time to get over my horror when Tony was shot. Not Maria’s Tony! Maria sang softly to him as he died in her arms. He couldn’t be dead! I didn’t want to believe it! 
The movie ended. I was devastated.
West Side Story won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, that year. Watching West Side Story at the age of five taught me that I really didn’t like bad surprises or sad endings. In fact, I think it got embedded into my DNA that day.
As a result, I read the last pages of a novel if I suspect I’m being set up for something bad. I like books with optimistic endings. And I read spoilers. :)
My family HATES that I read spoilers! My kids have been known to plug their ears and sing “lalalala” as loudly as they can if they think I’m talking about something that might give away an ending. 
What about you? Are you someone who likes spoilers, or do you like to be surprised? Is your enjoyment ruined if you learn the final score before watching the big game? Do you curse RealitySteve if you learn who gets the Final Rose on The Bachelorette before the season’s halfway over, or do you pour over his website spoilers before the first show even airs? 
All I know is, for me, the relief in knowing I can handle the outcome offsets any thrill I may have received in being surprised. Crazy? Maybe. Blame it on West Side Story.

(Guest post written for my Reality Check blog tour and posted on the Bookworm Lisa blog.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Blog Tour and Bachelorette Recap: Finale and ATFR

We're almost to the end of the Bachelorette Blog Tour for my debut novel Reality Check. For a chance to win an autographed copy of the novel and a silver starfish charm bracelet, leave a comment below (include your email address). And for more chances to win, check out The Book Bug. You'll find active links to the blogs that are participating in the tour. The more comments you leave, the better your chance of winning. And, if you already have your own copy of Reality Check, there's another great book you can have instead. Or I can substitute a prize "of equal value." You'll just have to trust me.

Let's get started!

The long-awaited day finally arrived, when all of America (or at least those of us who are interested) learned whether Emily chose Arie or Jef—unless you read the spoilers, in which case you were just watching to see if RealitySteve called it correctly.

I sat on my couch, paper and pen in hand, ready to take copious notes for this blog post. I think in the first half hour I wrote down two words: Jef's hair. It looked to me like he trimmed and tamed the hipster bouffant for his "meet the parents" gig. And it looked good.

When the three hours ended, I realized I could have squished all my notes onto a single Post-It note. Mostly I drew pictures on my teenage daughter's leg during the commercials. (I added a photo for fun. Obviously I am also not an artist.) The rest of the time I just sat back and enjoyed watching the show.

Before I share my observations let's briefly summarize the finale:

Emily's family met both guys and loved both guys, which was no help to Emily. Picking between Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong is easy. Picking between two Mr. Rights is a lot harder.

Emily's final date with Jef boiled down to Emily realizing that, if she wanted a guy ready to commit to the entire mama/daughter package, the guy had to have a chance to know the entire mama/daughter package. Jef met Ricki and quickly got on her good side by donning her pink swimming goggles and letting her push him into the pool.

That was the last piece of the puzzle for Emily. She told Chris Harrison she knew where her heart was, and knew she needed to send Arie home. Not surprisingly, Arie was stunned but generally kept his cool while dealing with total shock before leaving in the black SUV of doom.

Time for the Final Rose. The only questions remaining were: will Jef get down on one knee, and, if he does, will Emily actually accept? (Those pesky teasers again.)

At the Final Rose, Emily was free for the first time to share her feelings with Jef. She loves him and she thinks he may be her soulmate (A Reality Check word that's dear to my heart). And yes, he got down on one knee and yes, Emily accepted the proposal—and asked him, in turn, if he would accept that Final Rose.

My Should Have Been on a Post-It Note Observations:

Should Arie have realized something was amiss when Dinah the Potion Lady had him mixing his flowers and oils alone?

Did anyone else notice that Emily's dress totally matched the terra cotta pots on the Final Rose platform?

Total number of guys I managed to count in the live studio audience: five. Not counting Chris Harrison, Arie or Jef. Oh, I also didn't count JP or Stagliano. I made hash marks in the margin of my "page" of notes when I wasn't drawing an earthworm on my kid's thigh.

For those of you wondering, "Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera was a Billboard #1 in 1986. And has been stuck in my head every since the finale began. "I am a man who will fight for your honor . . ." 

The "shocking news" we were teased with was that Arie flew to Charlotte without telling anyone so he could talk things out with Emily, but after arriving there decided not to confront her in person.

Jef and Arie are friends and Jef helped Arie deal after he went home. That's cool. And Arie was, once again, a gentleman who handled his disappointment and heartache with grace.

To wrap things up: Jef is moving to Charlotte, they will live separately, and Emily likes the idea of a spring wedding. Everyone else is placing bets on how long the couple will last. Considering the franchise track record, that's not a surprise.

I would like to offer my own two cents. As part of my research for Reality Check, I spent a lot of time analyzing these shows, thinking through the process and the motives of those who produce the show, as well as those who sign up to be part of it. Here's my bottom line, for what it's worth:

The show isn't real but the people are. 

I know. Duh, right? But that's pretty much it.

The taping of the show and the experiences the participants have are their reality while they're going through it. I think sometimes we forget that as viewers. I hear comments that the show isn't what real life is like and that, under those intense situations, it's easy to think you're in love when you're not. That it's different when you're back in the real world.

That is all true.

But it is also true that people who go through intense experiences together bond over that experience. They shared something unique together that only they understand. Sometimes those bonds last. Sometimes they don't. But those experiences are still real to the people who went through them. Whether those people served overseas in the military together, or helped each other survive the Twin Towers, or simply spent long hours together on a huge work deadline, a bond forms that's real. So, too, is living in a jungle for a month hoping to win Survivor, or joining twenty-five other men or women on The Bachelor/ette

For that reason, I will allow myself to cheer Emily and Jef on as they explore their real emotions in their real world. I will get out of their way and wish them the best. They seem like wonderful people. And I hope for them this is more than a happy ending. I hope it's a great beginning.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Blog Tour and Bachelorette Recap: Men Tell All But Nothing New

Book Bug

Last Monday night was the Men Tell All on this season of The Bachelorette. Emily has narrowed down her search for true love from twenty-five men to two, and Sunday, July 22nd—for the first time ever—The Bachelorette will air the Finale with a LIVE (on the east coast) After The Final Rose.

Monday's party starts with Chris Harrison and Emily reminding us of the wacky antics that occurred over the season. Fun times! Ostrich eggs and helicopters and some of the most interesting hairdos I've ever seen, especially since they were on the men. We also got to see some moments that didn't survive the editing cut. Is it more painful remembering that Travis broke Shelly the Egg on the sidewalk after discovering that he and Emily had serenaded it to sleep? Did anyone realize bachelor Chris (as opposed to Mr. Harrison) had two left feet before they made him dance (aka publicly humiliate himself) in front of screaming onlookers? And does having two left feet make it difficult to buy shoes? Doesn't knowing that Arie's brothers spied on a home town smooch sesh between Mr. Start Your Engines and our blushing Bachelorette make you like the boys more? (I confess to spying on my teenage sister with her date once when I was an obnoxious little sister, so I'm biased.)

Next—Chris Harrison (as opposed to bachelor Chris) teases that next is a sneak preview of Bachelor Pad . . . which I will skip entirely. Enter the Bachelor Pad at your own risk.

The Man Claws Are Officially Out

It's time for the guys to dish on each other in a recap montage and in person. We don't really learn anything we didn't know before, but just for the sheer joy of rehash:
Kalon is the first bach in the hot seat. He glibly insists he didn't realize that arriving in a helicopter that first night would put him at odds with the guys. Uh huh. I'm not buying it, and neither are the men.
Ryan, who's been "blessed with so many worldly gifts," owns up to a taped conversation in which he contemplated himself as The Bachelor: Augusta, i.e. not there for Emily, per se. "I'll open my heart," he was caught saying on tape. "It'll be neat for everyone to see." Chris Harrison not so subtly asks him where the line is between confidence and arrogance. Good question! Thankfully, Chris Harrison also assures everyone that Bachelor: Augusta will never happen. Is that a collective sigh of relief I hear?
Chris (bachelor Chris, not Har—oh, never mind, you know who I'm talking about) acknowledges that he may have made some immature mistakes during the run of the show, but only because he cared so much. Then he kills the moment by pointing out that the "mature" guys didn't get as far as he did. Take that, geezers! Kids rule! Chris's broken heart will beat on . . . right on through Bachelor Pad, in fact.
And then there's Sean. The squeal-ometer registered in the red zone every time his name was mentioned. And once again, Sean does the class act. Do you think he memorized his speech ahead of time to hit just the right balance between heartache and hope?

Then it's time for Emily to face the guys, dressed in a red tourniquet, uhm, bandage dress (sorry, I got the wrong first aid term there). I was impressed. Personally I prefer breathing, but she looked amazing.

Our Steel Magnolia once again shows her soft side (watching Sean's episode prompted her to do the "ugly, ugly, ugly cry," she says). Then, when Kalon "attempts" an apology (insert finger quotes here), she delivers some tough words with a nice dash of Southern sassy, cutting him to the quick. She knows that he'd tweeted a photo of a baggage claim ticket (in reference to Ricki, Emily's daughter, whom he referred to as "baggage"), saying he thought he'd find Emily there but no such luck, followed by "I'm sorry I'm not sorry." She finishes him off by saying, "I just hope that you find faith in something bigger than your Prada shoes and your rented helicopter."

And with that slash to the jugular, it's on to the blooper reel! Besides "learning" that Emily "has a thing for guys who are tattooed and homeless-looking," we discover that Chris, while from a Polish heritage, is the only bachelor who knows how to wear a kilt like a true Scot. (And I'll just leave it at that.)

So, who do you think is the man who won Emily's heart? The promos are trying to make us wonder if she actually chooses anyone. Chris Harrison wouldn't even ask her how she was doing these days. But this Sunday we'll all find out: does she choose Arie or Jef?

And now it's time to ask: TeamJef or TeamArie? Are you madly tweeting Sean your phone number? Are you in the line to try out for the honor and privilege of becoming Ryan's trophy wife?

Leave your comments below (including email address) to enter to win a copy of my novel Reality Check and a silver charm bracelet! And check out The Book Bug for more fun Bachelorette blog tour posts and chances to win.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blog Tour and my Bachelorette Recap: Sean Gone

Book Bug

For The Reality Check Blog Tour, Lexie at The Book Bug and I thought it would be fun to dish on The Bachelorette and Emily Maynard's search for love, a husband, and ready-made daddy for Ricki. (Notice that I didn't call her Little Ricki, since I don't want the I Love Lucy theme song stuck in your head all day long . . . oops . . . my bad.)

Three guys remain. This season has been different from the others for a big reason: Emily isn't a free-wheeling, single girl simply out looking for love. She's a single mom looking for a partner. Jason Mesnick is the only other single parent who has been in the lead spot besides Emily.

Emily is drop dead gorgeous and undeniably sweet, but she also has backbone. That girl's a bonafide Steel Magnolia. She also went through a huge public breakup with Bachelor Brad. As a result, she hasn't wasted any time getting rid of the guys who weren't for her or weren't there for the right reasons.

Usually by the time there are three remaining bachelors, there's a clear winner or the threat of a clear winner ("No, no, Jake, not Vienna!"). But in Emily's case she seems to have three great guys, which I think is largely due to the fact that they are guys who realize they're also dealing with the life of a child here, and have been willing to man up.

So off they head to Curacao. (By the way, Curacao is an island off the coast of Venezuela—I had to go to Wikipedia to find out. Didn't you love the colorful Dutch architecture? Somebody send me there on a cruise, please!!)

Sean: Mr. Perfect

Sean is perfect, but that might actually mean his doom. Sean himself doesn't believe he's perfect, but Emily uses that word around him a LOT. He looks like a Greek god, he tosses trees—cabers, technically—and breaks them, for Pete's sake, all while being the perfect Southern gentleman. Perfect.

But perfect doesn't necessarily work for Emily. All you have to do is refer back to Ryan, the guy who thought he was perfect despite having alien crop circles shaved into his beard, to know that, in Emily's mind, perfect is an ideal that is destined for failure.

There are a few other red flags during their magic date, which includes a true-to-Bachelorette-form helicopter ride around the island. First, he confesses that he treated the girls he dated like "buddies," specifically, the girlfriend he had for three years. "I loved her but I wasn't in love with her," he says.

Then he admits he skirted the M-word with said girlfriend for those three years. Three years of her trying to talk marriage, with him constantly changing the subject? Just aim that gun right at your foot and shoot it now, Sean. Because right now it isn't you Emily sees sitting in front of her, it's Brad Womack, Mr. Commitment Phobe himself. A girl who claims she wants babies yesterday doesn't want to hang around for three years to find out if her guy can figure out the difference between "love" and "in love" and whether he's willing to do anything about it once he does.

And then, in an awkward attempt to at least get the L-word out, Sean tells Emily that no one he's dated has ever "measured up" quite like she has. Oh, Sean, Sean, Sean. To his credit, after several false starts, he does manage to tell Emily he's in love with her, but it's a little late in the Bachelorette game at this point, I fear.

Clue from Emily: "You represent everything everyone looks for." 

Jef: Mr. One F

Jef is hip and quirky. Even his name tells you that about him. I'm willing to bet his birth certificate has two Fs. And you've gotta love a guy who can not only make a marionette moon-walk but can get Emily to boot scoot as if she were a kid. She's had to be a grownup ever since she found out she was pregnant at the age of eighteen. Being able to act like a kid on occasion when you have grownup responsibilities is a blessing.

But his youthful looks and crazy joie de vivre make some wonder if he's really responsible and ready to settle down and be a dad—even his brother questioned him on it. But the guy's a college grad and has a successful entrepreneurship. That means he's acted responsibly more than once in his life. He can probably figure out when he's ready to take the next step and settle down with someone he loves.

He's also a "non-practicing" Mormon, which seems to confuse a lot of people. One thing I can tell you that it does mean is that Jef was raised in a culture that promotes marriage commitments over long-term engagements with living arrangements. The conversation he and Emily had in the library in Prague seemed to show that they're on the same page (ha, no pun intended) there. And that might also mean he's more willing to take the marital plunge sooner, if he really is in love with Emily, than either Sean or Arie. And for a woman who's looking for a family for Ricki now, including all those babies, that could be a big plus in her eyes.

Clue from Emily: "It's perfect on paper but also things you can't put on paper."

Ah, Arie: Mr. Start Your Engines

What's not to like about Arie? The guy's handsome and charming, and he's an Indy car driver (as opposed to NASCAR), something Emily understands and relates to without it being the same as Ricki's dad. Plus, Emily and Arie have enough chemistry to blow an 8th Grade science lab to smithereens—AND he protects her from all those pesky dolphins swimming in the sea. Emily loves his protectiveness—almost as much as she loves his kissing.

But it's difficult for Emily to get to know a guy when his lips are busy not talking. She tells him she doesn't even know what he does on an average Tuesday morning. Of course, finding out Arie avoids living the sad bachelor life (when he's not on the road, racing) by sleeping in, heading for the shop, then eating and hanging out with friends may not be what Emily was hoping to hear. This Steel Magnolia gets up before six-thirty after all, y'all. It may not cost Arie the checkered flag at the finish line, but it at least earns him a cautionary yellow.

Emily also understands that chemistry has clouded her mind—and opts not to even offer Arie the fantasy suite card. It's just too, too much temptation. Hooray, Emily! Attagirl! All the moms of daughters across America salute you and simultaneously feel your pain.

Clue from Emily: "He's so good-looking. **Sigh** That's a problem. I wish I could just enjoy Arie." 

And then, suddenly—after nearly two hours, that is—it's rose ceremony time. Each guy has strengths Emily is looking for. Sean is handsome and strong, a real go-to gentleman. Jef is edgy and playful, yet somehow manages to stay down to earth. Arie is all smoldering romance. Emily has strong feelings for each man and realizes tearfully that she's going to be blindsiding and hurting someone. She can barely watch the videos the guys have made for her. She breaks down several times before going out to face them.

In the end, Sean is the one who doesn't receive a rose. And again he's absolutely perfect. He takes the news stoically, expresses his hurt without being spiteful, and doesn't break down in the limo. Ah, Sean, there are only about a million women in your home state of Texas alone who would be happy to  give you the time you need to get those tricky words out. Just don't lead the girl on for three years if you're really not feeling it. Promise me.

And then there were two.

The Bachelor/ette Historical Firsts:

First: There has never been a Bachelor/ette who has opted out of all three fantasy suite dates until Emily. (I am giving her credit for all three, even though Jef turned her down first, since she said she was going to turn him down in her ITM.)

First: Jef is the first guy ever to voluntarily turn down the fantasy suite card, although a few guys have played the gentleman and deferred to the bachelorette to make the call. (And for those LDS readers, did you catch his scriptural reference from the Book of Alma? The world could do with a few more bridled passions, frankly.) I only remember one woman ever turning down the fantasy suite card. The Bachelor "respected" her decision—and then sent her home at the next rose ceremony.

Another First: This is the first time I think I've heard or seen anyone on the show say this particular phrase, and I think it says a lot about Emily. Here is a quote from her blog on this week (emphasis mine):

"I say it every week, but this was definitely the hardest rose ceremony yet. I went back and forth so many times, but I reminded myself that I couldn't make a mistake as long as I prayed about it and followed my heart." 

I hope, for Emily and Ricki's sake, her prayers are answered.

Next Monday is The Men Tell All, and I'll be blogging about it the following Wednesday. The finale and a live After The Final Rose will air on Sunday night July 22nd, instead of Monday night, as it's been in the past. Will you be watching? Add your comments (including your email address) below to be entered into our drawing for the grand prize (a copy of my novel Reality Check and a gorgeous charm bracelet)! And be sure to check The Book Bug for the other blogs participating in the tour so you can have as many chances of winning as possible.

Also, check out my other contest on the blog Lyrics Without the Chord Changes. I want to know where you had your Reality Check

And for more reality TV and romance fun, get yourself a copy of my novel Reality Check!