Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-5618-1
Romantic Suspense, 2004
Oh dear, this is awkward. Christina Dodd’s latest contemporary romance Almost Like Being in Love is like a CD featuring duets by Bruce Willis and David Hasslehoff – just cringe-inducing. Suzanne Brockmann can pull off that “Down with Terrorists!” theme, but Christina Dodd’s attempts to portray military espionage and war against terrorism are embarrassing. Anyone who wants to see a veteran author clearly out of her depths – or league – can take a look at this clunker.
This book is the second entry into the author’s The Lost Texas Heart series. Like the first book, Just the Way You are, the writing has an archaic, old-school slant to them, as if the story is more appropriately set in a few decades ago instead of present day. The norms and the depictions of contemporary life just… aren’t. While Ms Dodd can somewhat pull off the wallpaper contemporary setting in her previous book, she attempts to tackle a topic that is in the headlines of newspapers everyday, when there are more books written on the subject today than ever. In short, the war against terrorism is one topic where the author cannot afford to show slipshod research if she wants to convince the reader that her story is even a little authentic.
Piper Prescott, the second orphaned sister, has reinvented herself as Jackie Porter, a successful landscape designer who takes the words of General Jennifer Napier to heart as the philosophy to revolve her life around. Her hero-worship sputters into a quick death though when she accidentally stumbles upon Gen Napier killing her aide in cold blood during a book-signing. Oh dear, Gen Napier, is the turnout that bad? Actually, Gen Napier has been selling secrets to the Enemy, which is why she’s mean and villainous like that.
Piper flees to her foster mother’s Idaho ranch (because villains will never think of looking for you at your parents’ place) only to discover that the old woman is dead (don’t ask me how Piper doesn’t know – she must be a bad daughter, I’d guess) and the ranch is now in the care of hunky neighbor Dan Graham, her old boyfriend who also conveniently happens to be a covert agent whose mission is to lure out and stop a terrorist. After a bad start where he tries to kill her and they get so aroused as a result, love may be in the schedule. But Gen Napier is not letting Piper off the hook so easily. Also, the elder sister Hope from the previous book is closing in on locating Piper. Will the family reunion be more explosive than a Pakistani-Indian blind date? Stay tuned!
Dan and Piper have their share of dumb moments, but the sexual chemistry and the antagonistic love-hate relationship are vintage trademarks from Ms Dodd. But readers who care for some convincing plotting may want to give Almost Like Being in Love a miss and stick to the author’s previous contemporary or her historical romances that have the same sexual chemistry. The terrorist backdrop in this story is wallpaper at best. The villains’ modes of operation are vague and the portrayal of the military and the Intelligence are straight out of a James Bond Movie Plotting 101 handbook. Even someone like me can spot a few boo-boos such as Ms Dodd having a General writing a book and then taking time off her duties to actually promote the book.
This is a book that requires a degree of suspension of disbelief and an acceptance of vague, even inaccurate portrayals of military espionage to be enjoyable. Maybe Ms Dodd did a lot of research for this book, but she fails to convey that effort of hers in her story. As a result, this book comes off like the result of an author trying to jump on the action hero bandwagon, only to have somehow stumbled off into the deep end of pool, out of her depths, instead.