by Kelley St John, contemporary (2005)
Warner, $6.50, ISBN 0-446-61720-2
Kelley St John's debut romance novel Good Girls Don't suffers from one big problem: there is no good reason for her main characters not to hook up so she ends up coming up with some farfetched and really fake excuses to explain why these characters aren't wedded by page 160 or so. This book feels like a Harlequin Blaze or some other shorter-length book padded into a full-length novel, only this time the padding is too obvious.
And why haven't I heard of companies like My Alibi in real life? This company boasts of people willing to make phone calls to back up your alibi if you want to do things behind the backs of your boss, spouse, or anyone else you want to keep secrets from. For example, if you want to go on a weekend of illicit fling with someone who isn't your current significant other, you can tell your significant other that you have a conference and someone from My Alibi will come up your house to leave some message from the nonexistent conference people to make your lie seem more real. Boy, My Alibi would have been most useful if, say, I have to go for a job interview behind my current employer's back or I want to find a way to prevent dreadful relatives from staying over at my place, don't you think?
Our heroine Colette "Letty" Campbell works at My Alibi. I have nothing against her working at the company, mind you, but I do have an issue with her constantly moaning and groaning about having to lie and how she's only working at My Alibi to get enough money to start her own lingerie business. As a believer of the "you made your bed, you sleep on it" principle, I can't see why Letty can't find a different job if her guilty conscience is tormenting her. Nobody is pointing a gun at her head to force her to keep working at My Alibi so Letty can bloody well quit her job if it's killing her or shut up. Besides, I'm sure being a phone sex operator pays better.
Even more annoying than Letty's fake piety to the ways of virtue and honesty is her lapse of judgment in deciding to meet the person she is lying to on behalf of her My Alibi client. This person is her high school good friend Bill Brannon who told her he loved her (and not just in order to have sex with her, I'm sure) back on graduation day and she couldn't run away fast enough from him as a result. It's been years and Letty is keen if filled with terpidation to see him again. What's better to kindle a romance with someone you are lying to, right? Oh, I forget to mention that she's lying to him on behalf of his niece that he is overprotective of: said niece, Erika, is running off to a weekend of making whoopee with the guy she is sure is the love of her life. Yes, Bill will be most pleased indeed when he realizes that Letty is lying on Erika's behalf, and of course he will find out.
I find Bill creepy, to be honest. If the person that I haven't seen in years tells me ten minutes into our first conversation after all these years that we will be having sex the moment I meet him, I won't be charmed. I'd be wondering whether he keeps a shrine to me in his bedroom and whether he boils a bunny or two in my name on an altar before that shrine, right before I hang up and get a restraining order on this man. But that's just me. I also don't work in a job that I disagree with, morally, and then moan non-stop that I hate my job, you know? So basically this Lie is the one thing keeping the whoopees of Letty and her creepy boyfriend from being perfect.
Bill overreacts completely when he learns of Letty's lies but to give the author credit, here she demonstrates that she does have an awareness regarding the relationship of her main characters: she has Bill realizing that he starts out loving a Letty that he has built in his mind and this Letty that he is sleeping with may not be that fantasy Letty that he idealizes. Bill has to reconcile the real life Letty with his fantasy Letty. This aspect of the relationship is one that has to be addressed so kudos to the author for doing so. On the other hand, Letty is hardly a symphathetic twit since, like I've said earlier, it is not as if someone is threatening to kill her or something if she comes clean or quits her job.
A secondary romance has Letty's sister, Amy and one of the models in her sex toy factory. I want to like Amy, a 22-year old entrepreneur that runs a successful sex aid and aphrodisiac company, especially when she is unapologetic in her personal enjoyment of the toys she designs for her company Adventurous Accessories. However, the author then mutates Amy into a bizarre weirdo who insists that she does not need any man in her life - only battery-operated boyfriends - so that she and her guy do not hook up prematurely. Can't we have a better conflict that doesn't turn Amy into such a weirdo? It is not as if Amy has any traumatic events in her past that turns her off sex with a guy. Amy isn't a sexually confused lesbian in the closet. So what is keeping her from jumping the bones of this hot and studly guy that wants her? According to the author, it's Amy's adamant belief that she doesn't need any man in her life. I don't know what to say other than, "Oh my god, am I supposed to care?"
There is one more subplot: Erika realizes that her weekend fling guy is not the right guy and there may be another guy she encounters who is the right guy. Maybe I'm just too old and jaded but clueless eighteen-year old girls taking forever to see the obvious is not something I'd consider a rivetting story.
So basically Good Girls Don't has one main romance and two romantic subplots that are lacking when it comes to conflicts that I can really get invested into caring for the characters in the story. The conflicts can pretty much be boiled down to boneheaded beliefs and pathetic miscommunication issues. When these characters finally find a clue, they finally see the obvious. If I care for stories where twits take what seems like forever to get a clue - which I don't - I'd go ga-ga over Good Girls Don't. Which I don't.
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