by Christina Dodd, contemporary (2007)
Signet, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22056-1
Believe it or not, when the young man behind the payment counter scans the barcode of this book at the local Borders, Christina Dodd's Tongue In Chic shows up in the receipt as Tongue In Chick. Perhaps the person keying in the titles into the store database is having a fuzzy moment but I'd like to imagine that there's a disgruntled store employee on the loose giving the books in the stores all kinds of amusing wrong titles.
What does that have to do with this book? Nothing, actually. The trouble with this book is that it is so boring to talk about that the most interesting thing about it is that Tongue In Chick thing. Lisa Kleypas is quoted on the cover saying that Christina Dodd "gives readers everything they want in a romantic suspense" but a more accurate statement would be that Ms Dodd "gives away everything to the readers in this romantic suspense". Seriously, she does - every single thing about the villain from her backstory to her motivations to the plan she intends to carry out during the rest of the book is laid out in Chapter Six, thus stripping this story completely of any suspense.
It also doesn't improve matters when Ms Dodd is still writing contemporary romances as if she's just transplanting characters from her historical romances to her contemporary romances. The plot of this story may hold water if it's set in the countryside of 19th century London, but as a plot for a story set in modern day, it doesn't work that well. Ms Dodd tries to circumvent this problem by setting up scenarios where cell phones don't work and all, but her efforts are not enough.
Meadow Sazrvas' mother needs urgent and expensive medical treatments so she decides to waltz into the home that her grandmother left decades ago to steal a valuable painting and sell it for money. Unfortunately, Waldemar House had been sold off to Devlin Fitzwilliam and she isn't aware that the painting is no longer where it's supposed to be. Then again, she gets caught so it doesn't matter what she wants to do now. She pretends to have amnesia, Devlin pretends that she's his wife, and now those two are caught in a stalemate with both knowing the other is lying but can't say anything without admitting their own lies. Devlin has other motives: he wants to sleep with her as a form of payback to the rich people of this area because his father refused to acknowledge him as his (illegitimate) son.
The rest of the story is tepid. Devlin is a familiar hero by this author with his aggressive seduction methods and all. The problem with Ms Dodd's heroes of this nature is that they are fine when they are 19th century noblemen with huge sense of self-entitlement, but put them in a contemporary setting and they come off like irony-free Eurotrash gigolos trying to pick up a customer with their corny "forced seduction" come-on lines and all. Of course, the reason Devlin gets to be successful with his Eurotrash Deuce Bigalow affectations is because Meadow is programmed to be unable to resist Devlin at all. Like Devlin, Meadow doesn't make the transition from 19th century to 21st century well: in the current setting, she comes off as ridiculously dense for believing that she has no option other than to carry out a half-baked plan to steal a painting to pay for her mother's medical treatment, spinelessly weak for being unable to resist Devlin's obvious and often corny attempts at "forced seduction", and pretty stupid for trying to carry out her masquerade when she is programmed by Ms Dodd to be the most inept liar around.
Also, for a modern woman, Meadow is the kind of heroine who gets into danger in a dimbulb Jayne Ann Krentz "Oh no, I walked into a darkened room and someone locked me in!" heroine manner only to run into the hero's arms when he rescues her because, as she tells him, she knows he will come to her rescue. Meadow may as well be a secretary in this story and this story be published under the Mills & Boon imprint with a copyright date of 1977. Meadow is a haphazardly written character. One moment she's smart, one moment she's as dumb as a sack of turnips while Devlin is a flat formulaic hero of this author.
These characters' motivations and actions become increasingly ridiculous as the story progresses, with many of the things that happen in this story could have been solved if the main characters remember that they are living in the 21st century. For example, Meadow is conveniently ignorant of many things about Devlin who has his day and time in the society pages and Ms Dodd says that this is because Meadow's hippie parents don't believe in owning TVs. That's nice, if TVs are the only source of information nowadays. What, no newspapers, magazines, the Internet? Meadow happily waltzes into the house of someone she intends to steal something from without doing any research on this fellow?
The plot of Tongue In Chic requires a considerable suspension of disbelief. The author conveniently overlooks some aspects of her antiquated plot that could have been solved by 21-st century amenities in order to keep her story going. Her characters are uninspired rehashes of her historical romance characters. The suspense is dead on arrival since everything I need to know about the villain is spoonfed to me by the author on Chapter Six. The relationship of these two main characters are centered on Meadow carrying Devlin's child and Devlin acting all puffed-up "My sperm is da man! You are now my woman!" macho like he's a Diana Palmer hero who has at least graduated from charm school, even if he's at the bottom of the class.
What else can I say other than Ms Dodd really should stop looking towards Diana Palmer and all those 1970s Mills and Boon stuff for inspiration when it comes to her own contemporary romances?
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