Slightly Shady
by Amanda Quick, historical (2002)
Bantam, $7.50, ISBN 0-553-58336-0

Slightly Shady is Amanda Quick's 16th historical romance. Isn't that exciting? Can you feel the rigor mortis in the air? I bet the author does too, because the main characters in this novel are just there, with no character development or even chemistry. It's a good thing I didn't buy this book - why should I give $7.50 to an author whose stories now rank with a don't-care-WTF-just-buy-dammit stench of boredom and ennui? If the mortgage didn't need to be paid and the kids didn't keep asking for bigger allowances, who knows? Maybe then Amanda Quick will be free to quit writing the stories that obviously bore even her, to go find her inner chakra and discover enlightenment or something.

Because it's hard for me to care when the author obviously doesn't.

Amanda Quick tries to repeat the formula she did pretty well in Gift Of Fire and Gift Of Gold, ie have a few books featuring the same couple as they stumble and solve mysteries - the word "mysteries" being used in the loosest sense of the word, of course. In this case, we have Lavinia Lake, our heroine, who is forced to sell well-done replicas of genuine antiques in Rome to survive and save money to return home to London. One day, Tobias March marches in and pretty much evicts Lavinia and her niece Emeline. See, Tobias is some sort of private investigator dude who says that Lavinia's store is being used by bad people for Information Exchange Central.

"Not so!" Lavinia insists, but well, it is probably so.

So off she and Emeline go to London.

Since this is an Amanda Quick story, people die just as you are about to visit them, thus letting you stumble upon the fresh scene of crime. The villains are always some Obi-Wan-Mind-Control-Cannabis where they (a) always know to kill Doofus and disappear thirty minutes before you knock on Doofus' door, and (b) burst open and catch hero and heroine offguard to hold them at bay while you gloat and blab about your plans for world conquest. How do they know where to find the hero and heroine anyway?

This is what happens in Slightly Shady, a linearly plotted story that has Tobias and Lavinia working together for the flimsiest of reasons. Lavinia soon takes it to herself to set up a PI biz even when she can't even see that her store was being used as a headquarter for scums. That's female independence for you - even if you can't operate heavy machinery and loses all your ten digits and a nose in the process, we're all so proud of ya, because dang, you are WOMAN, phwoaaarr!

Tobias and Lavinia have no chemistry at all. They don't even seem to like each other much: Tobias is forever exasperated with Lavinia, and Lavinia is forever in his way. I don't believe in the Von-Trapp/Maria The Sound Of Music romance, neither do I believe in the Higgins/Dolittle My Fair Lady romance, because the hero is always so condenscending towards the heroine, and the romance in Slightly Shady is even worse. Lavinia and Tobias are in a story in such a way that it happens that they just sleep together and the author passes this off as love. You'd think a veteran romance author will know not to insult her readers by passing off one or two desultory love scenes as an enduring romance, but Ms Quick is probably too fatigued to care.

Emeline and Tobias' brother have a predictable but slightly more romantic subplot going. If this is Amanda Quick's throwing a bone to her readers, she can take that bone and shove it.

My advice? Borrow this book (like I did) from a friend or from the library. Yeah, yeah, authors need to eat too, blah blah, but hey, readers need to eat too. You can buy lots of candies with $7.50.

Rating: 55

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