by Stephanie Bond, contemporary (2004)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-053984-4
Stephanie Bond's latest excursion in mixing romantic suspense with chick-lit isn't too successful. Take a very stereotypical Bridget Jones-style chick-lit heroine, has her acting like a crazy dim bulb, and put her in some potential life-threatening situation, and the result is Party Crashers. What seems amusing when such heroine is stumbling her way through relationship and self-esteem issues turns less palatable when her life may be at stake and she just keeps acting like a nitwit.
Jolie Goldman's job is in tatters, her boyfriend is missing, she has money problems, and the legions of Heroines of Very Dated Stereotypical Chick-Lit books yell at her take a number and stand at the back of the pity-party line, bitch. To find her boyfriend Gary, she needs a way to crash the socialite parties of the Atlanta glitterati to discover clues to his whereabouts. Help comes in the form of her new friends in her upscale Neiman Marcus workplace. The saleslady Carlotta introduces Jolie to the fine art of "borrowing" the clothes on sale and "returning" them in the morning. Jolie of course takes the opportunity to grab the gowns after a token goody-woody protest.
Thus begins Jolie's misadventures in amateur sleuthing. Things heat up when Gary is found dead. It is hard though not to think of trains flying off the tracks into a ravine, nuns tied to railway tracks while a train comes on, or other morbid imageries though because Jolie is a neurotic woman who seems to have no emotional blinders at all. She has no sense of prorities, which won't be so annoying if she isn't so wooly-headed at the same time. She can't seem to make rational decisions (crashing parties is a pretty idiotic idea from the start), she says stupid things at the wrong times, and it is up to our Samaritan, the all goody-woody hero Beck Underwood, to extricate her out of the jams she gets herself into.
If Jolie is a train wreck, Beck is a one-dimensional Old-Money Hippie Dipstick - he is incredibly wealthy (of course) but he is all about the Benettons and Greenpeace thingies while patiently playing the white knight to Jolie. She's irritating, he's a walking bowl of soggy and tasteless oatmeal. All in all, Party Crashers doesn't work for me in the same way that while I could enjoy watching a chimpanzee do some stupid dance before me, I won't like it as much when he whacks me in the head with a banana. The train wreck chick-lit heroine may be amusing when it's only her self-esteem that's at stake, but when there is real danger afoot as in Party Crashers, her being stupid and overly self-absorbed isn't as amusing anymore.
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