"The Other Sister" - Lynda Sandoval - 2007

With the exception of a few stolen from my mother in middle school, I didn't start reading romance until maybe my sophomore year of college - "Whitney, My Love" started it all for me. Then it was onto all the big Avon names, and then the AAR Top 100, and an ongoing mission to hunt down desert island keepers. I didn't begin reading series romance until relatively recently 
and I find I turn to it when my attention span is short and my expectations are low. 
This isn't necessarily an insult, I've read a few really nice series stories, however they by definition are shorter and smaller in scope than contemporary single title romances. 
I also have a thing for the wrong sibling storyline
and will pick up any book featuring this plot, including a book with happy skiers on the cover...
Series romance, or maybe just the ones I gravitate to, usually take place in smaller communities. As someone currently living in a small town, I know that "Small Town America" is actually a fictional romanticized place existing only in novels and films.  Take Stars Hollow, CT from TV's Gilmore Girls, creator Amy Sherman found inspiration in the real hamlet of Washington Depot, CT. Yes, it's famous for it's town meetings, but is it overflowing with charming crazies and gruff but ruggedly handsome diner owners? Probably not.  As for romances, I tend to compare all contemporary authors against a Jennifer Crusie measuring stick.  She has a way of making fictional small-town Ohio seem like a place I'd love to live - Victorian homes, revival theaters that play Kurt Russell action films, local restaurants with tons of charm, and a store that sells gourmet ice cream!
The small town in "The Other Sister" is located in the Colorado high country, everyone knows everyone's business and they do something called, "Take Me, I'm Yours Day" once a month, which amounts to what we call "Big Trash Day" here in J-Town and it only happens once a year.  This town quirk amounted to little more than plot device, as about 85% of this book was about interior decorating. The other 15% was about the couple, and 100% to the dead older sister of the heroine, who also happened to be the platonic best friend of the hero. And when I say platonic, I mean the dead sister was gay, however I fell like this was more of a way to help the reader buy the storyline.  Sandoval kind-of tiptoed around the issue, and as much as I think you should have realistic and proud gay characters, this one seemed a way to show the hero never had feelings for the dead sister.  The older sister died in a prom night accident along with three other teens, the hero is one of four survivors returning back to the town he ran from eleven years before.   Although the author's note describes a real life tragedy that inspired her Return to Troublesome Gulch series (and that is a tragedy), I found the story a bit too preachy in the manner of after-school specials.  The dead sister supposedly brought the couple together, but I could never get past all the mentions of her.  Also, I absolutely hated the author's use of slang for both the adults and kids.  I'm sorry but putting something in quotes doesn't make it believable if it's not something a teenager would likely say in the first place.  I curse on a regular basis and my grammar is certainly less than perfect, but nothing turns me off faster than "lame" and "forced" dialogue. (See what I did there?) Oh well, the H/H were nice enough - I only wish they had a better story in which to fall in love.