by Penny McCall, contemporary (2007)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21645-3
Tag, You're It! at first really impresses me because the author has a really good banter system going on between the hero, FBI agent Tag Donovan, and the heroine, mountain lion researcher (don't ask) Alex Scott. However, this book soon collapses due to an unnecessarily convoluted plot and a hero who is hopelessly outmatched by the heroine in terms of brainpower that he redefines the phrase "brainless lummox".
Bear with me as I explain the plot. It helps to imagine this story as the script for the latest Road Runner and Wild E Coyote soap opera, I believe. Alex is minding her own business when she spots our hero fall out of a plane thirty-five feet onto the ground below. The hero is uninjured except for some bruises here and there and Alex nurses him, only to be chased by weirdos with guns as he leads her on in what seems like a quest for a lost treasure in the Rocky Mountains. But everything is actually a set-up to get Tag close to Alex because he thinks that she's in something foul-smelling. At one point Alex asks him why the whole elaborate set-up is necessary and why he can't trust her even when he's been with her for so long and he really has no good answer to that other than he's following protocol, which tells you all you need to know about this story.
Alex is smart, but her disadvantage in this story is that she understandably has no clue what is really going on. She is on to the hero whenever he tries to pull a nonsense on her, and apart from her bizarre "love" for Tag, she is one of those rare brainy heroines who is actually as smart as the author says she is. Unfortunately, in this story Tag happily destroys all she has worked for in four years for his personal agenda and when she calls him on to it, he acts as if he's entitled to do what he did because he is Suffering and Tormented. Give me a break.
Tag acts like a self-absorbed braindead lummox with a huge sense of "I'm hurt, so everyone must let me do what I want!" kind of entitlement here, plus he just keeps doing all kinds of bizarre and unnecessarily convoluted things to keep the deception going. Likewise, the plot has so many layers after layers of "twists" that it's like watching Velma pull off mask after mask of the latest Scooby-Doo villain.
Tag, You're It! demonstrates that Penny McCall really excels at light-hearted and often caustic witty banters between the hero and the heroine. But with the hero being a brainless lummox here and the heroine loving him for that, I end up feeling that I am the bigger loser at the end of the day for having to follow poor Alex falling for a man who is not even worthy of being stuck to the sole of her shoe.
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