by Robin Wells, contemporary (2002)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52503-8
I can't believe I'm actually reading a book titled Ooh, La La! Not that it's the worst title ever - that one is the Harlequin made-in-Tijuana title The Improperly Pregnant Princess. Not that I will ever touch that book, but if you have read it, let me know if the bride is improperly pregnant because the baby is gestating in her brain cavity or because she is impregnated while snorting Pepsi through her nostrils or because of something else. Maybe an alien mothership, anal probes, and Uranian bovine semen are involved. Let me know.
Back to this book: if the FBI wants evidence that everyone in Dorchester must be smoking something they shouldn't, look no further. Ooh-la-la, pookie hoochie-hoochie mama indeed.
Imagine my sigh when I realize that this is another showbiz romance. This one is no different from all the other showbiz romances done before by every one from Mary Jo Putney to Suzanne Brockmann, scripted according to the Great Rule Book of Mediocrity. According to this script, historical movies win awards left and right and actors flee the Evil that is Hollywood by marrying a spinster, Pretty Woman minus the sex-sex thing.
Zack Jackson is a filmmaker who is trying to have a hit movie after his last two movies did a Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the box office. So, instead of a big-budgeted movie with guns and planes, he decides to do a supposedly historical movie, titled (what else?) Ooh, La La! This Moulin Rouge/LA Confidential unholy mating revolves around the red light areas of New Orleans. It will have a tart with the heart of gold thing, love, guns, and bad Baz Luhrmann wannabeisms. Then I realize that at least Robin Wells is not advocating a period piece ala Merchant/Ivory thing to pander to rabid Austenite readers who insist that history begins and ends with Pride And Prejudice, so I start to like this book a little already.
Okay, I'm finding what little excuses I have to like this book, because Zack and his historical advisor bore me to tears. Kate Matthews, whose treatise is the source for Zack's movie, insists on everything being historically accurate, while Zack just wants the big bombs and guns. Kate is an annoying heroine whose behavior, motivation, and rabid insistence on historical accuracy makes her a bundle of snobby romance reader stereotypes. All you have to do, in the end, is to force her to let down her hair and look, she's putting out already. Cute.
While I do appreciate that Kate wants to make sure that everything is in order for the sake of her academic credibility, I'm not so certain as to why she should even work for Zack if her reputation is so important to her. Likewise, I find it hard to imagine that Marvin Goldman, Parapet Studio honcho (har har har), will still give a two-times-stinkbomber director so much leeway in terms of production. Incidentally, why Paramount, I mean, Parapet Studios? Shouldn't Miramax be the one Zack should go to for silly frilly indie movies to be produced?
Okay, I'm being a little too Ebert-ishly anal on technical stuff. But I can't help it - this book bores me. Kate is the typical hurt-before woman who wears naughty stockings and a little lingerie, in your typical "Virgin/Innocent Opens Sex Toy Shop ala Harlequin Blaze Sexy-Haw-Haw" style. Zack is the typical commitment-phobic guy. While there are some decent - if mundane - scenes between the two of them, they are mired in a script stuck in first gear from start to end. I think this book will fare better with those readers who don't like watching TV or movies much, but they may like the white-washed glamor (that they haven't outgrown long after Shirley Temple doesn't care anymore) in these dumbed-down showbiz romances.
Maybe there's something ironic or brilliant in a story about a supposedly brilliant movie being written in such a mundane, emotionally-lightweight way, I don't know. Now, the story behind the odyssey of the title Ooh, La La!, that I bet is a more interesting story worthy of at least two Guy Ritchie movies. Watch out, Dorchester, the Narcs are keeping a close eye on your after-office parties.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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