Mr Hyde's Assets
by Sheridon Smythe, contemporary (2000)
LoveSpell (The Time Of Your Life), $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52356-6

If I can overlook the glaring attempt by the authors (Sheridon Smythe is the pseudonym of a two-woman writing team) at giving the heroine Candice Vanausdale a respectable motif for her none-too-respectable antics, I would have enjoyed Mr Hyde's Assets. As it is, Candice practically jumps through loops to be nice, too bad the only result is me rolling up my eyes and thinking What a tweety bird.

I don't get it. Hollywood make romantic movies with conniving mercenery people before, so why is the romance genre so chicken-smelly-stuff?

Oops, that's me on a soapbox again.

Let me get back on track. Hero Austin Hyde is a macho man whose theme song is probably that YMCA song. He isn't too pleased when his nerdy brother Jack, who runs a fertility clinic, passes off Austin's "assets" as the late Mr Vanausdale's (the dead coot has zero sperm count). Candice wants a baby because she would need the baby as a court leverage to fight off her stepsons. Oh, and Candice does want a baby long before this. Of course. Anything you say, Candice - you're the heroine dear.

Austin isn't too happy, but hey, wowzers, ain't that woman Candice hot or what? His Mr Wonky practically jumps out of his pants every time he looks at her. He thinks Candice is a conniving mercenery woman, but he is also somewhat concerned about his baby. So he gets himself hired as a handyman in Candice's luxurious mansion.

Soon he finds himself protecting our vulnerable heroine from the press and realizes Candice isn't such a bad woman after all. She marries her old, old, old husband for the right reason (not for money, of course, but for the practical reason of Security and other rot - what, no welfare checks anymore in good ol' USA?). Love is in the air.

There are some good moments in MHA but it's not enough to hide the insulting underlying theme of the whole story: Candice is a vulnerable woman who Needs To Lie because she needs the security of a million zillion bucks, great expensive cars, and this nice luxurious mansion over her head. Gee, tell that to the starving kiddies in Etophia. Better still, tell it to me - now I have this overwhelming regret at not running away at 15 to Hollywood and being the next Bette Davis. Drats, I miss my mansion and my zillion dollars too.

Apart from plot contrivances to keep our heroine in the Respectable Zone, which is annoying and downright condescending, Candice is an irritatingly wimpy and clingy woman. No Jackie Kennedy here, this is more of a trophy wife who claims to be strong and independent, only to break down in tears because - Oh the pain! - sometimes the pressures of being a rich, wealthy woman is so unbearable. Austin is there, of course, to comfort her.

And why does a book published in January 2000 depicts in vitro fertilization like some sort of alien technology to be gawked at? What are we? Trapped in a time warp?

There are some humor, but not enough. Now, if Candice is the femme fatale the press depicts her, if Candice starts out with the "wrong" motivations, this story could've been fun. It could've been a Taming Of The Shrew scenario - Austin is a great, if misguided hero, and he would make a wonderful hero that could turn a conniving woman to the right path.

Instead, with the heroine so nice and wimpy... what a wasted opportunity. But hey, that's just me. Who am I to say how an author writes her books? This book rates a 64.

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