Dani/Ella has been crushing on Tyson Palmer since she was a college sophomore so it isn’t surprising that she seeks him out in the beginning of The Total Package. And what infatuated girl wouldn’t want to settle for whatever a star quarterback was willing to offer (there a literally thousands of references, fictional and real, on this). So the setup to this story is one that is tried and true, but is it different enough to set itself apart?
I like Evanovich’s writing style, which is bright and lighthearted, and I especially like how she crafts her female protagonists. However, I found Dani, a contradictory conundrum. One minute she’s swooning over what could have been, then backing away when it’s plopped right in front of her. She’s high maintenance yet thinks she’s not. If the reader has a hard time deciding what kind of character you are, you can’t expect the male lead to be able to figure it out.
The male hero, Tyson, the total package himself, is not exactly the epitome of the dashing hero, at least not when we first meet him. He’s a hot drug addled hot mess, but he’s able to turn it around fairly quickly. I say fairly quickly because one quick stint in rehab and he’s a changed man. I love a redemptive, self-reflecting character and Tyson checks all the boxes. Yet, I would have loved some a deeper consideration of his evils. Instead, years of drug abuse and personal demons are made all better by a 45-day stint. Nice, but not believable.
Events move fast in The Total Package. One minute Tyson is in rehab, Dani is, hard to say because the time jump is alive and well in this story, so next we meet her she’s all grown up and about to have the ultimate Throw Back Thursday when she crosses paths with her former infatuation. I don’t disparage the ‘time jump’, but it takes transitions into an odd jumble of who, what, where, that a little more time would allow the reader to really get to know and root for these characters. The characters in this story are familiar and while there are a couple of new faces they seem oddly out of place. Why the big setup and then have them disappear only to show up randomly to move the story forward (yes Marcus I’m looking at you).
I still liked The Total Package, mostly because I’m a sucker for a chick lit HEA story, but I wish there were more diversity and a deeper connection that was more realistic. After all, you can still be the total package, warts, wasps and all.