by Elda Minger, contemporary (2003)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-19276-8
I think I will paraphrase Kevin Smith and say this aloud: romance novels would be great were not for the heroines. The Dare doesn't just has a horrible heroine that could have stepped out of any horrible series novel, its plot is flimsy and there is no good reason for the story to drag on this long. The hero is great, and he's the only reason why this book isn't completely shredded to pieces by now.
Picture this, if you will: our heroine Alyssa Preston's friend is getting married. But Mindy is suspicious of her hubby-to-be Tom's bachelor party, so she begs Alyssa to pretend to be a stripper at the party and take notes. It's a bit hard to take notes when one is popping off beer bottles with one's breasts, but what do I know? I don't write ridiculous romance novels like this one. Alyssa agrees, and like any corkbrained Harlequin Blaze heroines tend to be, go completely wild and acts like the stripper that conquered Holland. The word "schizoid" crosses my mind more than once. The best man, Cooper Sinclair, is not amused. A straight-laced starch-shirted rich sort, he has specifically ordered the strippers to be boring and tame and here is this... this... creature - ugh! She must be stopped, even if he has to drag her away from the place. Which he does.
Upon which, Alyssa - who just has to be a virgin - decides that it's time to Do It and he, a man she is going to Do It under False Pretenses - is Mr Right. It seems a bit too dramatic to wait until she's twenty-four only to lose her virginity to a stranger while being intoxicated when one could easily do it during prom night eight years earlier, but who knows how things work in Harlequin Blazesville. When morning comes, she predictably flagellates herself and after the wedding of Tom and Mindy, she literally jumps on a plane and runs away from Coop.
Coop, the only thing that works in this story, feels alive. "Bambi Alyssa" has freed his inner horny beast and he must find her and do it again with her many more times until he's happy! Despite coming off rather juvenile at first, soon Coop becomes a much more interesting character as he pursues Alyssa with single-minded doggedness even as he wines and flatters her like a very horny Prince Gallant. He's not bad, really.
Therefore it is supremely annoying that Alyssa keeps insisting that they can't be together. The author fails to provide any concrete reason as to why Alyssa feels this way. All I know is that she loves the sex but she feels that she really must never be with him. Why? I don't know. It must be one of those neurotic pathetic romance heroines thing. As a result of the heroine's recalcitrance to entertain a relationship with Coop, The Dare ends up like a one-trick pony relying too much on an irrational and sexually neurotic heroine saying no to pad the pages. By the end of the book, I'm exhausted after being bombarded by so much awful female characterization typical of a bad Harlequin Blaze novel that I suggest we make all these series authors take a test before they be allowed to write a full-length novel. What's the use of a nice hero when he's wasted on a nitwit heroine and a book that has almost no plot other than the heroine saying no for no good reason?
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