I decided I needed to listen to more male narrators than Alex Wyndham and Sebastian York so I deliberately looked for other narrators to try. I’d heard good things about Melissa Foster’s books so I thought I’d take Tru Blue out for a spin.
Truman Grit (yes, really) is a 28-year-old ex-con who’s been out of jail for six months. He’s a mechanic for the Whiskey family in Peaceful Harbor. His mother is a crack addict and he doesn’t know who his dad is. He’d been trying hard to take care of his younger brother, Quincy (his mum has a thing about US Presidents) who is nine years his junior. One night he is called by Quincy and he arrives to find a bloody mess. His mother brought the wrong john home that night and he violently raped her – Quincy, fearing for his mother, stabbed the john, who died. Truman took the fall for the killing and spent six years in jail for it. Unfortunately, when he got out of jail, he found out that Quincy had become hooked on drugs too and things are looking pretty bleak for his younger brother.
When Quincy calls again, again Truman heads over to his mother’s place – only this time, his mum is dead of a drug overdose and there are two other children there – siblings that Truman had had no idea even existed. Kennedy and Lincoln are hungry, dirty and horribly neglected. Quincy is still on drugs and he is in no condition to care for them. Truman takes them in.
That same night, Truman meets Gemma Wright at the local Walmart as he’s trying to buy all the things the kids need – because they have precisely nothing.
Gemma owns the Princess Boutique – a place which caters to children’s fantasies and have what sound like awesome birthday parties. She is a poor little rich girl. Raised in wealth but with a very cold mother and absent father, she longs for the love she didn’t grow up with. She was also born without a uterus so her longing for children is further out of reach than for most women. Seeing Truman – a heavily tattooed bad boy with longish dark hair and a week’s growth of scruff, she can’t help but come to his rescue, helping him to buy the right diapers (we call them nappies in Australia) and other essential items. She notes immediately that he is caring and tender with the children and is completely besotted with him.
Tru, despite having been in prison and despite looking the bad boy, is a total softie. He’s a good guy dressed up to look like a bad boy. However, he’s secretly a superhero. Apart from a tiny bit of fumbling that first night he takes in Lincoln and Kennedy, he doesn’t stumble once. He is always patient, kind and loving. Even though they have thrown his entire life into upheaval. Even though he’s still on parole and the children don’t have birth certificates and keeping them may be a problem. He’s 100% on board with the instant parenting thing. He’s also the best dad who ever walked the earth. He’s just that good.
He’s also honest – before things get too serious with Gemma, he feels honour bound to tell her he’s an ex-con. But he’s in no way hard bitten. In fact, I wondered how he’d managed to survive prison so well because he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve. The text told me he was closed off but his dialogue showed me he was an open book.
There was a sweetness to the story which eventually became too sticky and treacly for me. Tru is kind of a male Mary Poppins. His dialogue, a lot of the time, felt like things a particularly sappy-feeling woman might wish to hear but not much like what tough-guy Truman Grit would actually say.
Gemma was also wonderful and kind and sexy and all the good things – she still annoyed me. She kept going on and on (both in her mind and out loud) about her crappy childhood and how nobody loved her. Gemma! Look at Truman and Quincy and the kids! Tone deaf much? #getoverit
There really wasn’t much keeping Gemma and Tru from their HEA. Whilst there was a lot of pain and hurt in their respective pasts, when it came to love story, it was pretty much clear sailing. The conflict, when it eventually came right at the end of the book, was mostly resolved off page – something which surprised me (not in a good way) and the story ended quite abruptly.
Even though Tru and Gemma were saying I love you after a tumultuous week or so, I did buy that they belonged together and they had been happily coupled for five or six months by the time the epilogue came around.
Paul Woodson’s narration was okay, edging toward good. He reminded me somewhat of early Sebastian York actually, in that Mr. Woodson doesn’t do a convincing female voice. However, Mr. York worked on it and he’s way better than when he first started narrating. I think Mr. Woodson could get there too.
For the most part I enjoyed the narration – even though there were times I couldn’t tell whether it was Gemma or Tru talking because of the no-female-character-voice thing. To my ear, it sounded like Mr. Woodson was channelling Keanu Reeves circa John Wick when it came to his characterisation of Truman. This didn’t always fit with the tender dialogue however. Sometimes, I felt that the emotion was a little overplayed but then I considered the text and wondered: how else could it really have been delivered?
Technically otherwise, the narration was good. There were no extraneous breaths and the timing and pacing of the story was solid. I thought Mr. Woodson did well with the limited dialogue of toddler Kennedy.
I can’t say I disliked Tru Blue. But it definitely fell into the wish fulfillment category for me. There’s only so much of the saccharine goodness I can take before I’m looking for a palate cleanser. However, if a listener is in the mood for a fairly high angst but very low conflict sugar rush, they could certainly do worse.
Book Content: C+
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: Drug addiction and child neglect, off page rape
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Melissa Foster
Tru Blue was provided to AudioGals for a review.