Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-267-3
Romantic Suspense, 2002
A Charmed Love is a very amusing read, and no, that’s not a backhanded compliment. The author’s school of writing is very similar to the Homer Simpson school of exposition. When Homer crashes down the stairs after tripping on a banana peel, he will thoughtfully announces through a broken jaw, “I stepped on a banana peel!” Likewise, when our heroine Det Denise Dory receives personally-delivered clues from a murderer, she tells me, “This is a very dangerous mission!” Cor, like, wow, shocking.
Then we have a forensic analyst telling Denise in all seriousness that the fat guy that died was killed by a biological cause or a virus or something that he contracted or atherosclerosis. Uh, redundant much, no? And of course, when the cause of death is finally revealed, well, let’s just say I don’t think CSI will be hiring Courtni Wright as a technical advisor anytime soon. Any decent forensic lab would have discovered the cause of death before we can say “Axe CSI Miami please.”
But there’s a charm to reading such a simplistic, implausibly childish “romantic suspense”. It is so earnest that I feel nasty if I don’t pat it on its head and toss it a bone and ask it to gambol somewhere else.
Denise and her colleague Tom Phyfer are partners in love and on the job. Their thing started in Uncovered Passion, and this story concentrates more on Denise and Tom playing Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy rather than Nasty O and Hard-hard Boy.
So there they go, stumbling over clues that would make any amateur CSI geek sigh in exasperation and go “They’re so simple-minded!”, talking in lines that come off as plain awkward rather than funny (I go “Huh?” when Tom jokingly describes a jealous cat fight between Denise and his dog over him), in a plot that seems to be born of too many Zoolander viewings. Someone is killing fashion designers – a great loss to the world and the IQ pool, really – and Denise must stop them! She finds a clue. “I found a clue!” she announces. “You found a clue!” I tell her in fake enthusiasm, because it’s not nice to give a cute earnest puppy the smack down, you know.
I’m also puzzled by this author’s idea of “teamwork”. When Denise is assigned to a case on her own, she actually doesn’t feel right that Tom isn’t here to guide her and push her around. She then reports everything she does to Tom, and gets offended when he doesn’t seem to care. “Tom, Tom, I sat next to the suspect today! Ooh!” she’ll go, and then pouts when Tom doesn’t act all excited for her. If this isn’t codependency rather than teamwork, I don’t know what is. I’m not even going to go into Denise acting like that and then claiming to be the best detective – apart from Tom, of course – that you can find in the Montgomery Country Police Department.
Courtni Wright can write love in the ER pretty well, but she just can’t cut it in the PD if this book is any indication.