The Spiral Path
by Mary Jo Putney, contemporary (2002)
Berkley, $7.50, ISBN 0-425-18301-7

What is Mary Jo Putney doing? Has she joined one of those new cults thing? The Spiral Path is stunningly preachy, filled with good sentiments delivered in trite, annoying ways that make me wonder if I've bought one of those preachy "I found the light!" so-called memoirs.

And before I proceed, let me have a small rant. Indulge me. I don't understand and I probably will never understand why and how romance authors always somehow write exactly the same plot details as each other. The other contemporary romance set amidst the world of movie-making is Suzanne Brockmann's Heartthrob. Like Heartthrob, The Spiral Path's idea of a great Oscar-calibre movie is a period romance movie. Like Heartthrob, The Spiral Path's world of movie-making is a sanitized, beautiful world of peace, love, and harmony. Like Heartthrob, The Spiral Path's idea of making of a movie is just that - script, casting, camera, and action. No post-production troubles, no run-in's with the MPAA, no mention of computerized special effects.

People, please. I know The English Patient and Shakespeare In Love won the Oscar, but no movie whose plot sounds like a Hallmark soap operatic movie will win the Oscar. Trust me. The Spiral Path's great movie, The Centurion seems like a bizarre hybrid of Lawrence of Arabia and The Gladiator with the lurve thing on overdrive, but that kind of movie stopped being in since Cleopatra tanked decades ago.

How about some noir? Mulholland Drive-kind of movie?

But The Spiral Path is all about smoochies and peachies. It's about this couple who are still angsting over the process of finalizing their divorce working together in The Centurion. Kenzie Scott is the heartthrob hunk, and Raine Marlowe is the talented actress who is making her directorial debut with The Centurion.

Kenzie doesn't want to play the lead role, because the lead role's angst mirrors his a little too closely. Nonetheless, he has promised Rainey he will play the role, so he will. Besides, without him, Rainey will lose all financial backings to her project.

I think they're supposed to fall in love again. I think they have a grand love in the past. I think, because the author never showed me this. I'm just told repeatedly that they have this grand love thing, but the characters by themselves are too busy trying to be in love to actually be in love. Am I saying this correctly?

Let me try again. Kenzie has baggages. Fine. But he is so in love with the idea that he has baggages that he keeps going around and around in circles. It's always back to square one for Kenzie - "I'm a man with angst and I must drive her away no matter what!" Yo dude, the New Romantics age is so over and the Cure, the Clash, and the Smiths are no longer in fashion. Wipe off that black lipstick and get rid of the Byronesque pretensions, dude.

As for Raine, my, this is one busy woman. In fact, she hardly spends time being in love, she's too busy playing the feitsy woman director, the crusader for dying gay men's right for respect, the best friend we all never have, the understanding heroine, and - I want to strangle this irritating woman. Seriously.

There are some scenes in this book that will be moving if I get the impression that the story is going somewhere. If I can believe that Kenzie and Raine love each other more than the idea of falling in love. If the author isn't so busy inserting side-stories about how we should all treat other people with love, respect, peace, harmony, and other rot.

I guess there's a love story in here, but the author got sidetracked halfway in her attempt to make the world a better place. If only it's that easy - hmm, still, maybe the fangirls ought to read this and get enlightenment and never grace my mailbox again. Now that's a beatific thought.

I find The Spiral Path overwhelmingly starchy and preachy, and the characters seem to be going through the motions of falling in love rather than actually experiencing it. Now, Suzanne Brockmann's Heartthrob, the pages singe with the characters' emotional turbulence. In The Spiral Path, Kenzie is a passive self-absorbed bore, Raine is a superwoman out to make the world a better place, and I demand the Michael Jackson and Barney Brigade to release Mary Jo Putney from their evil clutches at once.

Jeez, I think I need to listen to some The Clash music after this sickeningly sweet exercise in love and kissies. Yucks.

Rating: 53

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