by Patricia Rice, contemporary (1999)
Fawcett, $5.99, ISBN 0-449-00609-3

Anyone ever watches that cheesy TV series Tropical Heat, the one where this airhead whiny woman gets half the ownership of a PI agency, the other half owned by this PI who can't keep his shirt buttoned and speaks in lummox-like cliches? Uhm, while I sincerely hope that show has been put out to greener pastures (haven't seen anything but reruns on cable), I sort of enjoyed the show. A guilty pleasure, I guess.

This book reminds me of a much better, and definitely more fun and hip Tropical Heat episode. I've never laughed so hard or enjoyed myself since... uhm... Wanting You, but that one' s for the wrong reasons altogether. Volcano is fast-paced, surprisingly sexy, and corny in a good way.

It all takes place in the fair isle of St Lucia. Penelope Albright steps off the plane and got plunged into her personal nightmare. The customs found a sachet of drugs in her luggage, and next thing she knows, this big jock in revealing red tank-top (err...) steps in, bribes the customs officer, and drags her away. He has saved her from the horrors of the local jail, he claims, and now she must pose as his wife in some sort of plot that is really over-the-top and quite ridiculous. Now that I think of it, the plot doesn't actually require Penelope to pose as his wife. It's just... oh well, if she didn't pose as his wife, I wouldn't have had so much enjoyment out of this book, so who am I to complain? And poor Penelope. Before the poor woman can take a deep breath, she's biting her nails as she zooms in pink sissy jeeps along rocky bumpy jungle paths, escaping from the local bad guys, and managing to cram in some hot making-out action with big bad boy Charlie Smith as well. Then we're all off to return to good old America for even more ludicrous but way fun action.

Other than reminding me of those good old days of cheesy fun TV plots, the characters are also nostalgically Tropical Heat-like. Penelope, despite a talent for organization and computer hacking, is actually your normal oh God not again - DON'TTOUCHME!!! - eeeeeekkk - I hate jungles, I hate insects, I hate danger, ohmygodohmygod kiss me Charlie stock TV character heroine. Watch her trek in her designer clothes through forest paths, face dark with misery as she wishes for the luxuries of the local five-star hotel. Charlie, despite being as wealthy as Midas, is still your stock TV-macho guy with Neanderthal views of the uses of women in his life. It's the classic posh bimbo and hunka-lugga caveman, only Miss Rice develops enough of her characters to make them vivid and memorable. She manages to evoke such imagery in my mind with her writing that I can actually see those idyllic beaches and tropical forests.

Penelope and Charlie are an entertaining couple. She thinks all men are scums and orgasms for women are overrated in capital letters. Charlie thinks posh women like Penny are useless shrilly Barbie dolls - give him loose lusty women anytime. He wants nothing more than to guzzle beer and watch football, and hates it when he has to wear sissy designer clothes and drive jeeps in prissy colors like pink. She wants nothing more than to be left in a bubble bath far far away from the Neanderthal madding crowd. Watching them bicker and find a middle ground between some brief but wonderfully hot love scenes... ooh la la. Charlie has big shoulders, big body, big... everywhere. Hey hubby, where's my string bikini? Can we go a-holidaying in St Lucia, darling?

I love this book, I really do. It's so entertaining and I can't help getting involved with the action, laughing at everyone's antics and sighing in pleasure as I remember those good old days when TV shows are plain minimum-psychobabble all-out-entertainment events. Let's see, there's The A-Team, Scarecrow and Mrs King, Remington Steele... A book that brings me back to the good old days, and it is a very good book to boot, that's a keeper. Especially if that book actually dares to have a hero named Charlie.

Rating: 88

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