The Fling
by Elda Minger, contemporary (2002)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13372-8

I must admit that when I saw who the author of this book is, I sigh. I have a bad prejudice against category authors, I admit, because most of their big-time debuts just cannot shrug off the inane secret baby and virginity conspiracies the Harlequin camp is infamous for. Elda Minger's The Fling is seriously on its way to making me eat repentance. Then comes page 100 when the plot trundles into a halt right after making a painful screech that sounds a lot like "The Kiss of Death, Big Misunderstanding Style". It never recovers from the meltdown.

Kate Prescott is right there when her cousin Patti gets left at the altar. To console Patti, she agrees to take Patti to Maui, a trip that is supposed to be Patti's aborted honeymoon. Along the way, they meet Cherry Jubilee, a showgirl from Vegas, who is there to snag a millionaire husband. Together, they three plan to have fun and who knows, have a few hot flings or two (no, not with each other)!

I actually giggle at Cherry's over-the-top Bimbo Power declarations. This may just be the perfect beach resort and pink lipstick kinda girl's night out fun stories, I begin to believe, and make myself an alcohol-free pina colada in anticipation of the fun to follow.

Our hero is Jack McKenna, the son of powerful Maui hotel boss James McKenna. However, James is worried that Jack is too "hard-hearted" (read: Operation Force My Son To Marry A Woman is about to commence) and bets Jack that the younger McKenna will never survive being a "normal" guy. Providing that your definition of "normal" is a guy who can afford a week-long stay at a ten-star resort in Maui.

Kate meets Jack and they have a fling. To make sure you understand that they have a bond, this author has a sex scene from Kate's point of view, repeats the scene from Jack's point of view, continue the sexy stuff in Kate's point of view, repeat once more from Jack's point of view for a few dozen pages. Overkill much, no? Especially for strangers who are just having a fling?

But Jack is sure that she is the real thing for him - until he overhears Kate, Patti, and Cherry giggling about Cherry's Operation Millionaire Husband. Slut! Greedy, mercenary slut! Jack is mad. He is so, so mad! Bitch! Slut! Et cetera!

Even when Kate clears things up with him, he still refuses to believe her, so they spend most of the rest of the story adamant to stay away from each other. Which is good if this means that brassy Cherry and slowly coming out of her shell Patti get their share of their limelight, but no. Patti and Cherry become Mary Sue cheerleaders instead, cheering the boring Kate on like thankless Joan Cusack roles who are so much better than the Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts lead but they just can't shine because they aren't "cute" enough. James Senior has much better chemistry with Kate and he even wines and dines her like the sweetest romantic in the world. At one point, Jack, sulking in the shadows like the brat he is, is even jealous of his father. But what happens is that James is sure that Kate is the one for his son ten minutes into seeing her, and wines and dines her into falling in love with his son.

Why would a supposedly smart woman choose the surly, whiny brat over the handsome, debonair father anyway? Especially when it's clear that Daddy has the brainpower too. Then again, I'm not a romance heroine, so what do I know, eh? Give Kate the Fabio on the Harley, please.

The Fling reads like a Harlequin Temptation bloated with pointless arguments and uninteresting red-herring scenes just to fit the larger word count. The middle lags and it lags because of a contrived, dull conflict (two whammies in a row). In the meantime, Daddy McKenna, Patti, Cherry, and the obligatory Old Maternal But Stern Secretary to Daddy McKenna are obviously much more interesting characters than our two uncommunicative brats. But do they get their stories? No, let's see Elda Minger make them wear cheerleader outfits instead.

And one more grumble: am I the only one who see the hot, hot chemistry between Patti and Cherry? Seriously, when those two do their thing together, it's like "Wow! Girl-love!" There's even a touching scene when those two, in the same darkened room, share a moment of bonding as Patti asks Cherry whether they will ever find a love that is like Kate and Jack's. No, dears, your love story will be so much better, because for one, you two communicate much better than the two Mog and Moggie here. Alas, no girl-love for those two.

The Fling has a great cast of secondary characters, but they cannot save this ineptly padded story with its lethally dull main characters from being, er, flung right into the deep abyss of mundaneness. Really, I have to ask: why on earth does this author create such interesting secondary characters when she is going to push forth two squeaky, whiny brats in the limelight? If Kate and Jack get the lead roles because they fit the typecasting perfectly (she's a drop dead gorgeous yet dateless woman, he's Fabio on a Harley) and nothing more, then yes, I feel very cheated indeed.

Rating: 74

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