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Ramona's Man

by D. L. Yoder

Rating: ***

Wealthy business tycoon, Bradley Magnuson appears to have it all as he prepares to host his Corporate Christmas party. A wonderfully, efficient homemaker in wife Naomi, and three beautiful daughters: Jennifer, Stephanie and Ramona. Naomi and Bradley have expensive hopes for their daughters’ futures which are wholeheartedly endorsed by Stephanie and Jennifer. Ramona has different ideas and decides that the festive party is the time to make her feelings known. She brings Harley, a homeless man who she has known for barely an hour. Harley’s involvement in the Magnuson household triggers a deluge of unexpected consequences for himself and the family.

I thought this book began incredibly strongly. The writing was clever, lively, and flowed well. The opening chapter pitches us straight into the party and adeptly manages to weave important notes of backstory into the character conversations. When Ramona arrives with Harley, it is gripping stuff; redolent of King Lear crossed with The Stepford Wives. There is also some lovely descriptive imagery throughout the novel, (‘panic suddenly blooming like a black rose’ Chap. 15) which elevates the writing as the fast pace makes it prosaic on occasion.

However, what began as a romantic suspense novel shifts around Chapter 14 into a science fiction thriller. I felt that Yoder was now writing the story he wanted rather than the one the characters inhabited. Personally, it became a little unconvincing. I think there are two novels here and placing them in one book was not entirely successful. My initial sympathy with Ramona paled; she was not adverse to using the family name to get ahead which contradicted the earlier Ramona. I never felt the relationship with Harley was properly explored; they did not seem to have any chemistry. Her sisters (and I think we could have done with just one) were utterly vile and yet in Chapters 23/24, Ramona is joking with them. Bradley, the strongest character at the start, falls away and Naomi is too full of contradiction.

Technically, there were a number of spelling and grammatical/formatting errors. Yoder also changes tense in a few chapters and I am not sure that was intentional.

I found the ending unsatisfying; it seemed abrupt and some narrative strands are not dealt with satisfactorily which is disappointing as D. L. Yoder is a fine writer as the first third of Ramona’s Man demonstrated.

I received this book through Reedsy Discovery and the original, published review can be found:

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