Soft Focus
by Jayne Ann Krentz, contemporary (1999)
Putnam, $23.95, ISBN 0-399-14578-8

It's amazing what a new publisher can do to an author. Soft Focus is a far cry from that exercise in Blahdom, Eye Of The Beholder. For one, it has fun, it has humor, and best of all, new setting! (Okay, that sounds pathetic, but you know how it is, the JAK books have reached a point where even a tiny itsy-bitsy newness is a cause for celebration). And yes, I actually find the two characters memorable.

Bad news is, the jargon of the year syndrome is still there. This time, Soft Focus' a crystal thingie that can help make its owner a multi-millionaire software mogul (the crystal can do some sort of ... uhm, does it matter? Okay I still don't get what that stupid thing does, but my valid excuse is that I never am any good in Physics). Soft Focus does something, and it is missing, along with its creator.

Our hero Jack Fairfax, CEO (bet you didn't guess, huh?) of Excalibur, the company that holds the patent to Soft Focus, has to look into the matter. Excalibur is financed by vanture-capital fund manager Elizabeth Cabot, who refuses to be left in the dark. And once, Jack and Elizabeth had an affair, only to have their beautiful relationship go bust the morning after. Jack still thinks it's because he can't give her the OOOOOHHH BABY OHHH DO THAT AGAIN thing, while Elizabeth thinks he's one cold-blooded shark. Oh, and there's that OOOOOHHH BABY thing too.

Our two intrepid leads join forces to solve the Case of the Missing Crystal, the villian still blabs everything at the end, people still die in nice timing (just in time for our hero and heroine to burst right through the door and she to go, "Oh my God! Is he dead?"), and the whole mystery is still lame and amateurish.

But the whole story's fun. Clues lead them both right into the film noir heart of Colorado, and two geeks caught among the pomp and primpings of Jackie Collins-esque film star bitchiness makes lots of hooty and enjoyable reading. And the Excalibur family are downright entertaining too, especially a nice clueless guy who emulates Jake right to the fashion sense (okay, so Trevor did that too in Dangerous but still...)

And best of all, I love Jake. He's nuts about Elizabeth, and I like that in a man. A man who doesn't give up the fight and is tenacious as a bullmastiff when it comes to getting her woman. You go, you stud you! He's one of the best, more interesting heroes from JAK after that blah twosome of Flash and EOTB. And Elizabeth is a cool, icy woman who has fun making our hero drool, play fetch, and roll over. These two people are fun, their snappy repartees have me chuckling, and my one foot ready to jump out of the JAK bandwagon finds itself back on the wagon floor.

How did Ms Krentz do it? Each time I am totally prepared to give up on her, she produces something to reel me back in. As it is, SF is a fine, funny romance. I'm not sure if it's worth $24 - I borrowed this from Grace - but it's definitely worth my time.

Rating: 81

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