by Genie Davis, contemporary (2007)
Zebra, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-7978-1
Five O'Clock Shadow conforms to the rules of the romance genre a little more than the author's previous book The Model Man did, but this book could have been better marketed a better cozy mystery with some romantic elements than a straightforward romance story. I have no problem with the romance apart from the fact that it could have been a little more interesting, mind you, it's just that I feel this book is not marketed to the correct audience.
Jessica Adams is currently a DJ in an indie radio station in Playa Vista. It is rainy season when the story opens, with some of the heaviest downpours since 1897 hitting the town for two weeks now. It gets worse: Jessie learns that her friend and confidante Lisa's beach club The Sea Shack will most likely be shut down by the City Council to make way for the usual waterfront resorts and such. Since there is a vacancy in the City Council, Jessie has an idea: if she can get herself elected into that vacant seat, she could actually save The Sea Shack. Well, there you have it, people: Jessie Adams, DJ, failed musician, and sucker for musician bad boys who always break her heart, is making her debut in local politics.
Not only does she meet the handsome cop Chuck Jackson in the process, she also learns that someone among the pool of candidates running for election is determined enough to win that this person will play dirty to do so, even if it means removing the person's opponent from the race - permanently.
Apart from the first few chapters in this story that can be a little slow to get going, Five O'Clock Shadow is a fun read. Sure, I find that the romance is the least interesting aspect of the story. Chuck is a nice guy, and that's about it for him. His relationship with Jessie is free from contrived conflicts, which is nice, but the author at the same time doesn't succeed in making the romance interesting. It's just there in the story, as if it exists merely to fill the empty spaces in the story. However, the non-romantic aspects of the story are far more entertaining. The mystery is intriguing, the cast of suspects are colorful and memorable, and the resolution is comical yet believable. The author also once again demonstrates that there is a believable way to fill readers in on the plot details of the villain without resorting to the clichéd and never believable villain-blabs-all method.
I also like Jessie a lot. She's a fun heroine who makes no apologies for her love of fast men with long hair (at least, until she meets Chuck), her indie rock roots, and her career. There is a tendency for some romance heroines to moan about the evil of life in the big city and what not, but Jessie is a realistic urban heroine rather than a walking propaganda for life in a small town. I also enjoy the fact that Jessie accepts the mistakes she has done in her past instead of whining constantly about them. Her tendency to obsess over Chuck early in the story can get really annoying and even creepy (let's just say that I feel like chucking up myself every time she mentions "Chuck" in those chapters), but once she settles down into a comfortable rhythm with Chuck, she stops being a creepy obsessed creature.
Five O'Clock Shadow is a fun read and, for a romance novel, this one is quite different in a good way as it combines the sensibilities of a chick-lit novel with a cozy mystery plot. If you want to try something a little different from the usual contemporary romance fare, this one may do the trick.
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