by Shelley Munro, contemporary (2007)
Triskelion Publishing, $5.99, ISBN 1-60186-075-7
Alice Beasley inherited a company called Fancy Free from her late Great Aunt Alicia that sent shockwaves of disgust and terror through the folks in this story. Can you guess what kind of company this is that has her boyfriend Steven all disgusted? No, it's not a brothel. No, not a blow-up doll factory. Of course not, Alice didn't just inherited a sex toy factory. She inherited a condom company.
Yes, a condom company. So shocking, so scandalous, so unheard of. If we're talking about a story set in 1963, perhaps, but Snap! is a contemporary romance so I don't know what to think. Then again, this story is set in New Zealand and I can't claim I know everything about the people there, so... perhaps it's a New Zealand thing? I can't imagine what is so shocking about owning a condom factory.
Then again, Ms Munro claims that Alice and her folks come from very conservative background where the use of contraceptives is considered a heinous sin. Fair enough, I suppose, but then we have Alice's dear Steven admonishing her by saying things like, "Alice! Lawyers can't be involved in sex." The fact that Alice doesn't see anything wrong with this guy and comes this close to marrying him speaks volumes about her intelligence if you ask me.
Alice meets James Bates. Or rather, her eyes zoom in on his crotch the first time they meet. No doubt being shackled to a guy who insists that lawyers can't do the kinky do that a lady. I believe it's called estrogen poisoning or something. She actually gets aroused during a clinical condom test thingie, mind you, which is just sad. As the local anti-birth control group the Children of Nature rally to cause trouble, can Alice make the difficult decision on whether to choose the big-crotched man or the crotchety lawyer boyfriend? Stay tuned!
If I can get over the initial set-up and some very obvious warning signs about her choices that Alice inexplicably fails to see, Snap! has a very enjoyable romance in its core. Which is to say, while there is that rather contrived ditsy innocent Alice persona at the start of the story, Alice soon turns rather unrealistically quickly into a more sexual person once she really gets to know James. While this is rather unrealistic given Alice's supposedly rigid conservative background, on the bright side this means I get an Alice who can laugh and have a sense of humor without putting on the neurotic "Eeeek! Eeeek! Eeeek!" attitude when it comes to sex. James is somewhat underwritten in that I have no idea who he is, big crotch and great bedside manners notwithstanding, but he has a good rapport and chemistry going with Alice. The love scenes are also pretty hot and I like how Ms Munro also shows me a glimpse into some of the workings behind the condom business. I don't know if she's making things up or she's being authentic since I can't say I know much about what happens in a condom factory, but Ms Munro manages to create an interesting backdrop for her romance to unfold.
Therefore, I have no problems with the core romance - I enjoy reading about Alice and James. However, I wish the author has found a better set of external conflicts to bring out the best from her characters. Alice's conservative background doesn't gel with her easy transition into a woman happily having sex out of wedlock with James. But the external conflicts work on the concept that it is a truly shocking thing for a woman to own a condom factory, just as the core romance revolves around the tired "let's test our products" line. Snap! has a fun relationship but at the same time it is overloaded with so many tired and overused Harlequin Blaze plot and character clichés that a part of me is surprised that the ship doesn't sink, so to speak. I have a pleasant time reading this story but I can't say I'm too thrilled with how predictable it is or how much I have to suspend my disbelief while reading it. Perhaps Ms Munro can come up with something less derivative of a generic Harlequin Blaze tale in the future?
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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