Open Your Heart
by Michelle Monkou, contemporary (2002)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-379-3

It is a rather sad kind of irony that this book is called Open Your Heart. If the main characters do just that, this book wouldn't be so contagious as a cause of nosebleed. Michelle Monkou is a debut author, but that's really not a good excuse for the flaws of this book. The author seems to be armed with a Big Misunderstanding Radar of the most powerful kind as she writes this book. If there's any miniscule reason to get 'em squabbling and bickering, Ms Monkou's all over it.

Fans of Big Misunderstanding Plots, enjoy.

The story starts with our hero Justin Thornton and his wife arguing because she cheated on him. He wasn't looking at the roads so - oops. Wifey died, good riddance. Justin is feeling rather guilty because he couldn't forgive his wife despite her asking him for it during her croaking hour. Not that this aspect of him will stop him for mistrusting all women forever and him jumping on any and all reason to mistrust them more and more forever.

Shelly Bishop was a victim of assault and now she is a nurse dedicated to helping people like her surviving the trauma. That's nice, really, but again, that's not a good excuse to embark on a relationship with an abusive jerk, even if the jerk is gorgeous.

Justin's father is sick. So he hires Shelly to... wait, not to take care of him, but you guessed it - to throw Shelly and Justin together. Even more contrived, Shelly has always had a crush on Justin - no, Justin's not the date rapist guy, but the guy before the date rape that made Shelly mistrust all men forever and... oh never mind. Let's just say that consistency in characterization isn't this book's strength.

Justin, of course, never considers that his father, whom he know is sick, may actually need a nurse. The nurse must be a ho! Down with ho! Die, ho! Out, out, out! But this ho is hot, so Justin doesn't know what to do with his ho radar going on full bleeping overdrive.

They mash lips. Then she will do something that he will miscontrue as some antics out of the Slut Handbook and kicks her away. Her friends and family will reassure her that he is not so bad, so she must make excuses for him. Repeat. For variation, replace mash lips with genital bouncing and increasing the pitch of the morning-after misunderstandings. Or has her keeping some things from him ineptly so that he can mistrust hersome more. Add in a nice other guy who turns out to be - ta-da! - the Psychotic Other Man!

I wonder if Ms Monkou hangs my Romance Novel Cliché 2003 Calender in her writer's area. If so, Ms Monkou - take it down. Now. Go get one of those happy puppy calenders instead.

The characters in this book aren't above doing uncharacteristic or just plain stupid things for the sake of conflict. The author wants to do some Healing and Second Chance angles in her story, judging from her afterword, but with the author relying on stereotypical Other People villains to make the messy and stupid main leads come off smelling like roses, Open Your Heart comes off as a showcase of shoddy characterization and inept plotting instead.

Justin and Shelly, you twits, you should've opened your heart at page 130 and spare me the misery of your tedious, unnecessary whinebag actions. To think I barely recovered from Flodungka whining her way to a five hundred grand prize in The Amazing Race 3 to this. Ugh.

Rating: 46

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