True Confessions
by Rachel Gibson, contemporary (2001)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81438-2

Oh, Rachel Gibson. You know, I just realize a reason why none of her books have hit the keeper grade for me. It's a silly reason, but I'll say it anyway: her heroes remind me of all the Mr Wrongs in my life. Oh, stop laughing, but it's true, unfortunately (for me). In True Confessions, the hero Dylan Taber reminds me of that class representative of mine back when I was the new girl in college. And the idea of holding Mr Dickhead's hand, much less moving past first base with him, threatens to make me undergo spontaneous hysterectomy.

But True Confessions is not a bad book, really. The heroine Hope Spencer is just darned cool - she's my type of heroines, really, only a little neurotic, not at all sexually dysfunctional, and she doesn't treat sex like the holy grail where a woman's life begins and ends around the morning after. She retreats to the redneck town of Gospel in some backward hideyholes of Idaho to get some quiet R&R. Hopefully she will regain her muse and start cranking up tabloid headlines like Satan Photographed In Wilderness Town for her tabloid paper.

Well, her house turns out to haunted, or so according to rumors. The townspeople are less than warm in their reception - what do you expect from a colony of rednecks, anyway? - and she is plagued by that handsome sheriff Dylan and his son Adam. And, of course, the mystery of the dead previous owner of Hope's place (which Hope plans to cover), Dylan's issues with his ex-wife, and other redneck hijinks add to the mix.

But you know what? True Confessions just meanders. Seriously, the plot doesn't seem to go anywhere. Just scenes and episodes more suited for the anecdote sections in Reader's Digest stringed along into 370 pages. It makes amusing reading, but I wish there are some emotional scenes of Dylan and Hope. There are love scenes, oh yes, and despite Dylan's ineptness with a condom (altogether now: Redneck!), they are hot enough to combust me eyebrows. And while I also love how Hope can try to put these sexual episodes in perspective - she doesn't know him well, so she can discount these as one-night stands and not some until-I-die-I-will-pine-for-him nonsense, I also wish there is something more than sex. Maybe some non-sexual teasing or something.

And the conflict at the end? Well, remember that class rep of mine? Oh, Dylan's outbursts of misogyny reminds me so much of that a-hole. I feel the urge to drop this book and start burning old photos, only to remember that I have deliberately tossed that Class of Hell year photo into who-knows-where ages ago. Oh, well.

But the characterization I find superb indeed. Rednecks or not, the characters do come off cute, eccentric, exasperating, or vexing - in short, they make great slightly-larger-than-life figures in this story. When Dylan is charming, oh, beware, ladies. Hope is also a rather fully-figured character with enough baggage and sardony to balance out the town folks' Gilmore-Girls-gone-hillbilly attitudes. In short, True Confessions is a sparkling, fizzy champagne of a read. Too bad it's more of a sex-fun read with little emotional poignancy to beef up the bed-bumpings. And the lack of focus, that too.

But let's face it, an author who creates a true-to-live hero that reminds me of all the jerks in my life and still have me buying her books - that's a sign of brilliance, don't you think?

Rating: 83

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