Christmas On Conrad Street
by Marcia Evanick, contemporary (2002)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7424-7

Picture this: there's a town called Misty Harbor in Maine and hunky men live here. No, this is not the Maine version of Queer As Folk, this is a town of women-starved men looking for love. Why do the Bachelorettes go to Alaska when they could have kissed the fish-smelling anglers of Misty Harbor? And is it true that the men bugger dead mackerels while waiting for their true love? Why is it that I think I made that last one up?

In this latest installment of Bachelorettes Maine: Looking For Love, Christmas On Conrad Street, we have twins Erik and Gunnar Nelson ("Bay-bee, I can't live without your love and affection...") perking up considerably when two available women move to town. For Erik, we have Dr Sydney Fletcher, the pediatrician turned Dr Fix It All when she moves her after a disastrous relationship with a cheating ex. For Gunnar, the other woman in the last book, Catch Of The Day, is now in full-blown Repentant Harlot Turned Annoyingly Neurotic No-Man/No-Sex Silhouette Desire heroine. Meanwhile, their Grampappy is showing signs of having Alzheimer's disease, but that doesn't stop Gramps here from playing matchmaker. You ever see a male Mary Sue matchmaker? It's not pretty, trust me.

I find Gunnar and his girl's story annoying because it is so familiar and typical of the contemporary subgenre. Erik and Sydney fare better as the couple with greater chemistry and likability factor, and I like how Erik fixes up her place even as she fixes the tiny lil' holes in his heart. He may have the usual commitment issues, but at least he isn't too stubborn to change.

Christmas On Conrad Street is pleasant to read, but I wish the story isn't written in such a way that nothing in this story feels new. It's actually a pretty derivative story - standard characters, standard plot, and it is only Erik and Sydney who drag the book to the finishing line. A little tweaking to the smalltown romance formula would have done wonders. As it is, this book isn't bad, but be careful not to put it down before the last page. You may just forget to pick it up again.

Rating: 66

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