Jackson Rule

Jackson Rule - Dinah McCall, Sharon Sala This was a disappointing read for me. I had been super excited to read it based on the unusual pairing of a preacher's daughter and an ex-con, but as I was reading it I could swear I heard the story's squeaky little voice begging to be heard from under a mountain of plot and bland telling.Andrew Jackson Rule, newly released from Angola prison after serving 15 years for the murder of his father, heads to New Orleans to start putting his new life together. After walking into town when a short run-in with a woman at a country store causes him to miss his bus, he sets himself up in a dingy apartment in a bad part of town. Now 32, he's determined to keep his head down and work hard to make a living for himself and his mentally ill sister. He buys an old Harley from a junk shop and sets out to find himself a job.Just outside the city, Rebecca Hill runs a garden shop and nursery, with her father's friend as her lone employee. Looking for an additional set of hands around the place, she'd taken out an ad in the newspaper. When the man who had saved her from falling into traffic outside a country store walks in to apply, she's intrigued by the gruff stranger. Even after he divulges his history, she decides to take a chance and hire him on, remembering her preacher father's exhortations to judge not lest ye be judged.So I think your average romance reader can predict how the story goes. They'l be wildly attracted to each other. He'll push her away boorishly because he thinks he's not good enough. The preacher father will disapprove of Jackson then have a crisis of faith over being judgemental. She'll be feisty and martyr-like, becoming more and more enthralled with him the more he withdraws. Circumstances will change, some sort of truth will out and the HEA bursts onto the scene.But, whatever. I don't necessarily begrudge a formula. I read Harlequins by the milk crate. What I do begrudge is a formula plainly told to me. I don't like being managed.What McCall failed to do was make her idea for a story come to life. She was constantly telling me what people did and what exactly they were thinking. Lest I ever wonder what anybody might be thinking at any point, she liberally hops from head to head to let me know. No character is spared, no matter how ephemeral their presence.As a result, the plot is just so obvious. I had started to wonder early-on if maybe he'd be a virgin, since he'd been in custody since he was 16. No sooner had I wondered than I was informed on page 35 that he wasn't.The memory of his fifteenth birthday and an older and obliging woman who'd lived in a trailer near theirs came swiftly, along with the lessons she had taught him. By the time he'd reached sixteen, Jackson had been well-versed in the ways of making love.Right then, we'll just have to take her word that he's a great lover. He also had a comfortable bank balance sitting around from when he was working at a grocery as a 14 and 15 year old. Could she have contrived any more obviously to fit him to the genre standard for heroes?Unfortunately, the whole of the book's character development is engineered in this bloodless sort of way. Jackson's goodness is displayed by saving Rebecca from two bizarre near-rapes, performing CPR on his co-worker, romping with a homeless shelter full of woefully undeveloped plot moppets and so on and so forth. Since it's all just told to me, I felt rather beaten over the head with it. "Yes, I get you, he's the hero and has a heart of gold. Can we get on to giving these people personalities yet?" Unfortunately, talking to 15 year old books does not yield results, and the characters ended the book the shallow plot vehicles they began.I'm not sure why I was so turned off by this book when so many people list this as a favorite. I can see the potential, and I'm more than aware of what the author was going for, but the propensity for telling and the over-obvious symbolism completely prevented me from connecting to the characters. What a shame.