LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52586-0
Contemporary Romance, 2004
I’d like to know what it is with Dorchester that sees them publishing almost mutually wacky screwball contemporary romances in their contemporary line. While some of them are actually funny, many of them are awful waste of words catering to people whose masochistic tendencies for bad jokes are built after years of sitting through amateur stand-up comic nights at the local Denny’s bar. The editors at Dorchester must have long-standing tabs at Denny’s.
Darlene Gardner’s Snoops in the City is another attempt typical of authors who try too hard to be funny by putting their heroines through moments of stupidity so bizarre and unbelievably ridiculous to the point that when they do a turnaround late in the story and insist that I consider the heroines as people, it’s too late. I’ve already called the men in black to drag these women back to some planet near an intelligence black hole where they must have come from.
Tori Whitley needs money. It’s too much to ask her to donate her kidneys to science, so she decides to be a private investigator instead. How hard can it be for an idiot to be a private investigator, right? Just keep the guns away from her and I’d rest easy. Her first assignment is to spy on Grady Palmer of Palmer Constructions to check and see whether he’s cooking any deals with the city officials of Boca Raton, Florida. There must be a joke in there that goes all the way back to year 2000 or up past Jeb Bush’s sphincter, depending on which way one looks at it.
Naturally, in ways too painful for me to recall, she bungles up the job and gets caught by Grady. He wants to know why she is tailing him. She can only tell him that he’s so good-looking that she must follow him. Grady, however, is a nice guy that asks her to tag along and see for herself what he is up to instead of calling the cops on her. Tori soon begins making far-fetched self-justifications as to why Grady can’t be the bad guy, he can’t, because he’s so hot.
There’s a secondary romance about a woman who tries hard to convince a man that she is selfless and sweet and not stuck up, so he must marry her and let her take care of his kids. There are also dotty old ladies, a nauseating cat trying too hard to act cute, monster kids (twins, of all things), and plenty of unfunny “wacky” antics involving the heroine falling flat on her face and everyone going “Awww!” like they are sitting in the audience of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Come to think of it, Tori reminds me of that “funny” clip on that show that I saw once, where a puppy just keeps chasing its tail on some slippery ground and keeps falling flat on its rump. It falls, stands up, keeps chasing, falls, stands up, keeps chasing, repeat and repeat. Meanwhile, the audience is laughing like it’s the funniest thing they have ever seen, next to that clip about the baby falling hard on its head, haw haw haw. Me, I’m thinking that the person holding the camera, who is thinking that it is great to make easy money out of filming a dumb dog hurting itself instead of preventing it from doing self-inflicted damage on itself, should be given a hard kick in the bottom. In the case of Snoops in the City, maybe a hard kick isn’t in order but a restraining order on future wacky stories (unless they are actually funny, that is, and don’t involve formulaic elements that are dealt with unimaginatively) may be the answer.