by Linda Howard, contemporary (2000)
Pocket, $24.95, ISBN 0-671-03406-5
Linda Howard's Mr Perfect doesn't know whether it wants to be an episode of Sex In The City or a typical Serial loonybin stalks me - boink, er save me, Mr Hot Cop! thriller. While I'm glad Mr Perfect isn't a gaggle of cacophonic, neurotic card-holders of Desperate, Frustrated Husband Hunters Anonymous shrilly whining me to death, the transition from comedy to straight-out thriller doesn't gel.
The four ladies in question, Marci Dean, Luna Scissum, TJ Yother, and Jaine Bright all have their own men problems. Marci forgoes intimacy and love for sex - after so many marriages, she believes love has gone the way of the dodo. Luna's boyfriend cheats on her mercilessly. TJ's marriage is going up in smokes, and our heroine Jayne has been to Dumpsville three times. (Notice how the heroine manages not to soil herself in meaningless one-night stands, unlike her best buddies - this definitely ain't a true-blue Sex In The City clone).
One day, tongues loosened by way too much alcohol, they concocted the Perfect Man list. He must be sensitive, committed, yadda yadda yadda, he must also be hung, able to give multiples, and - in short, Jayne's next door neighbor. Only Jayne thinks the dirty, scruffy Sam Donovan is some sort of junkie. When the List gets an inadvertent nationwide distribution, some psycho takes it onto himself to stalk the four women. Here, the story switches from Men Are From Uranus whine-and-bitchfest into standard Linda Howard thriller mode.
I like Sam. Ms Howard's greatest strength lies always in her larger-than-life, sizzlingly virile, and always reliable and dominant male characters. I even like Jayne, who is more Carrie Bradshaw than Ally McBeal. I also appreciate the fact that while these women are all losers in love, they know it, and they aren't above poking fun at themselves.
It's just that the rather uneven elements of modern comedy of relationships doesn't gel well with the killer elements. By page 300, Mr Perfect is like an entirely different book compared to page 80. The crime drama part makes the comedy elements awkward in comparison, and the comedy dilutes the emotional impact of a woman's fears of being stalked by an unseen predator. Ultimately, both elements, strong if considered separately, sabotages each other.
Mr Perfect, therefore is a bumpy ride. It's enjoyable, but mind the potholes.
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