Signet Eclipse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22104-9
Contemporary Paranormal Romance, 2007
I winced when I first realized that Lucy Finn is the pseudonym of the author who also writes urban fantasy stories under the name Savannah Russe. That was after I’d bought Careful What You Wish for, naturally. My initial negative reaction is due to the fact that, if the author’s The Darkwing Chronicles is anything to go by, she is inexplicably addicted to having her characters behave like unlikable children squabbling non-stop for “conflict”. This book isn’t that bad, but it has one of the most unlikable heroines I’ve come across. And lucky me, this story is narrated from Ravine Patton’s first person point of view so I’m stuck in that woman’s head throughout the entire story.
This is a genie story and as far as stories of this kind go, most of them are pretty annoying because the authors can’t come up with any compelling reason as to why the heroine won’t make three wishes there and then and have the story end after 100 pages. Perhaps we can have the heroine suddenly having amnesia right before she makes her first wish, I suppose, or that she is an Amish who is convinced that she is lacking for nothing, but in this story, the reason for the story to drag on for so long is because Ravine is the biggest unlikable bitch in the northern hemisphere.
Ravine’s big city real estate law career is on its last legs and she just has to get herself knocked up after a quickie fling. She returns to the sleepy town of Noxen to get her mother to help her with the kid, Brady, while she spends her time pouting and whining and making ugly sour faces. Because she is constantly complaining that the stench of Brady’s soiled diapers make her retch, her mother gifts her with a Diaper Genie, which she handles as if she’s given a cannister full of SARS virus instead of, you know, a gift. She realizes that there is something lodged in the Diaper Genie, plays around with that thing, and woosh, out comes a hot genie named Gene who claims to be an Australian WW1 pilot in his previous life.
Now, this man not only cooks and cleans without making his services part of the three wishes allocated to Ravine, he is also good with the kid and he likes Ravine’s mother. He’s a gentleman and he’s also good in bed. Seriously, what’s not to love? This man only has to snap his fingers and a brand new office for Ravine magically appears out of the thin air, customized to suit her tastes in so many ways that would make both Ty Pennington and Barbara Eden turn green with envy. Seriously, what’s not to love? If I were Ravine, my third wish would be that every straight woman and gay man that I am cool with would get a Gene clone set up in their households because this man is simply a wish-fulfillment sex god fantasy come true.
Of course, you know romance heroines. Give them a million dollars and they will still find a way to become the most miserable hag in the world. Ravine is like that. She treats Gene really badly in this story, shrieking and snarling at him whenever he helps her out with something, and that is when she’s not telling him to stay away from her. Her reason for not putting out to Gene – not that it will stop her from putting out, of course, she just loves to shriek at Gene for daring to make her lose her self-control – changes from chapter to chapter. After a while, it seems to me that Ms Finn is making Ravine a shrew on the verge of a nervous breakdown because that is the author’s idea of conflict.
It’s not that Ms Finn is completely unaware of Ravine’s hideous hag act, but Ravine’s remorse usually lasts for a page at most before she’s back to embracing her inner hag. I don’t believe she has ever thanked Gene even once for all he has done for her. The story takes a turn for the most sentimental late in the story, but all that good things happening to Ravine only make me dislike her more. She’s been such a hateful hag throughout the story, so I have no idea why she is getting all this good luck as a result. And she even gets Gene, who naturally has a last-moment story to conveniently explain why he’s suddenly able to be with Ravine for the happily ever after. Gene! The most perfect husband in the world! It’s a good thing that Ravine is fictitious because if she is real and she lives in my neighborhood, I’m heading over to beat her bloody and senseless with an iron kettle right now.
On the bright side, apart from Gene, the scenery in this book is just wonderful. The description of the places in Noxen can rival anything Deborah Smith puts in her own stories – I wish I can visit Noxen, to play the tourist, that is, and not just to beat Ravine bloody and senseless, of course. There are some mystery subplots here that become Ravine’s business as she is prodded by her mother – what, you expect Ravine to do something other than complaining on her own? – into starting her lawyer business in Noxen and playing Ben Matlock for some unlucky locals. These mysteries aren’t exactly top notch, but they provide some pleasant respite from the emasculation fantasy passed off as “romance” here.
It’s a big shame that Ravine is literally one that sucks all joy to be had from the story, because this book has all the ingredients to be a good story. Good sense of description, a hero who is a dream come true, some adorable secondary characters… and oh yes, a heroine who really deserves to be beaten bloody and senseless. It’s a fine balancing act here, so approach with caution.