by Hailey North, contemporary (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-82070-6
Why is it that adulterous couples in fiction and movies always leave a trail of paper for their spouses to discover after their deaths? These letters - love letters, of course, written in turgid purple prose about "feeling you inside me" - are always conveniently bundled in some box, drawer, or stash so that the spouse, while rummaging through the Dead Cheat's possessions, will discover them easily. Why is this? For the life of me, if these cheating scumbags can spend their entire time sneaking around discreetly, I don't understand why they can't keep the evidences of their dirty little antics in some bank vault or something.
Poor Jonquil "Jonni" Livaudais Landry DeVries. She always suspected that her late husband David, a stereotypical workaholic image-conscious "sex once a week" lawyer, was cheating on her when he was alive, but David, a lawyer whom one would expect know better about leaving paper trails, soon confirms her suspicions. Jonni has been living in some dazed funk since David died, eating ice cream until her daughter Erika thinks she's pregnant with a new baby sister. Thankfully, she's rich due to David's money, so she can have all the ice cream she wants. Um, tell me why is she so miserable again?
Her twin sister Daffy, who starred in Dear Love Doctor, decides to shake up Jonni's life by getting the movie folks behind the new Mr Benjamin movie to use Jonni's old-fashioned house. Mr Benjamin is a kiddie TV favorite, sort of like Barney, only this time we have an aging old coot instead of a walking penis dinosaur. This is how Jonni meets Cameron Scott, the action star who reluctantly agrees to play Mr Benjamin. Sparks fly, naturally.
What I like about this book is how at first the characters are familiar but also a little bit different. Jonni is whiny but she's also pretty funny - her marriage with David may be on the stereotypical side, but she deals with it in a pretty realistic way. She's somewhere in between wanting to roll up and die and giving life the finger because she's fed up. Cameron is also an adorable guy in that while he's a macho actor, he knows he's a lousy actor who had it lucky because he looks good. He also wants to settle down. Hailey North's penchance for tweaking the formula is showing in this book very well, and I hope she improves on it in her future books. Her secondary characters are actually stereotypes too but in this book, I enjoy reading about their interactions, although I'm still not sure whether I like that bratty Erika or want her shipped to a boarding school run by mean old nuns. The author succeeds in making them only vaguely familiar rather than being flat-out tired ciphers.
Unfortunately, it's when those two start getting serious that the whole story becomes stagnant in a pool of tired plot devices. Jonni starts whining about how Cam can't probably want her - the same old "Poor unworthy me" blues. Opposites Attract starts on a high note but ends at a low note - I'm more relieved than anything that the whole tediousness has ended.
Oh well. Despite everything, I find that Cameron Scott is a tremendously appealing hero while there are some aspects of Jonni's personality that I can relate to. I really appreciate the author going some extra mile in making sure that her characters aren't exactly the same old stuff. Maybe she'll do the same to the relationship of her characters the next time, and then we'll be talking about some good stuff here. Hailey North has come some way since her incoherent and messy debut Bedroom Eyes, and I'll be interested in seeing just how far the distance she will actually be able to go.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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