by Nancy Darryl, contemporary (2005)
Champagne Books, $5.00, ISBN 0973762756
Here Lies Love seems to be Nancy Darryl's first published romance novel as far as I can tell and I must say, it is a pretty good showcase of Ms Darryl's exuberant and bubbly voice. She has a very nice and unforced way with one-liners. What she has to do, however, is to make her female characters less cartoonish and shrill if this book is anything to go by. It's hard to really sympathize with the heroine Callie Shaw and her sisters Serena and Doreen when all three of them remind me in one way or the other of Daffy Duck.
This story begins most interestingly - Serena is about to be marry the man of her dreams, Nathan (at least, he's been in her dreams for a few weeks because that's how long she knows him), when the cops show up just as those two are about to exchange vows before the priest and haul Nathan's butt to jail. This is just a tip of the iceberg as Serena vows to be with Nathan come what may while Callie realizes that the family business run by her uncle, the Eternal Rest Mortuary, may be involved deep in a crime syndicate that uses the coffins as part of their operations. She will probably hit the bottle if she realizes that the church groundskeeper Mitch Brooker who she is falling for is actually a private eye that is trying to get into the heart of the matter involving the coffins and a missing million dollars.
This is actually a fun and breezy light-hearted romantic adventure romp and I like how the author uses as backdrops things rarely used before - like a family business being a mortuary, for example. Many of the scenes here that are meant to be funny really work for me. I really don't have any problems with this book except for one big problem and this problem is what really holds me back from fully enjoying Here Lies Love.
The Shaw sisters. Think of any horrible actions and behaviors of a typically stupid and overly-emotional heroine stereotype, one who will do the most stupid thing possible in any situation, and that's Callie. Serena is pretty dim-witted too as is Doreen and these two sisters are so unpleasantly self-absorbed and catty towards each other that I find it amazing that these sisters manage to grow up without putting out each other's eye or bitting off a earlobe or two. Callie is also no prize as she can be relied on to be one-dimensionally and unreasonably prejudiced against men and fly off the handle in a most irrational manner when the last thing she needs to do is to go all stupid on everyone. The three sisters aren't reasonably well-drawn characters as much as they are embarrassing stereotypes of stupid, overly-emotional, and viciously catty women. It's the stupidity that really makes this women hard to read about. I can take catty, I can take a few moments of impulsive silliness from the characters in the stories I read, but please, don't give me all these and then an extra big helping of dumb in the process.
Still, the fact that I find myself enjoying on the most part this story despite the Shaw sisters doing their best to do what seems like a painful tribute to the possessed girl in The Exorcist on me is a testament to this author's way with her writing style and sense of humor. All she needs to do is to stop confusing unpleasant women behaving silly for comedy and I think we will all be set to have a wonderful time together.
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