Once Smitten, Twice Shy
by Lori Wilde, contemporary (2008)
Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-61846-5

I don't understand Once Smitten, Twice Shy, I'm sorry. Maybe I'm just not an understanding person, emphatic and sensitive to the plight of lovelorn darlings. Maybe I'm just a cynical hag. I don't know. Reading this story, my reaction is pretty much, "Oh you babies, what are you all doing?"

Okay, we have Shane Tremont. He's with the Secret Service and when the story opens, he saves the President's daughter, Elysee Benedict, from being turned into a photogenic victim of an out-of-control backhoe during a groundbreaking ceremony at the University of Texas. Elysee is already smitten with Shane, so she now wastes no time in deciding that her rescuer will be her husband. When President Nathan Benedict approaches Shane about this, Shane is like, "Uh... dur... I'm a dum-dum... okay."

Shane's ex-wife is Tish Gallagher. Knowing that Shane and his ex-wife parted ways under less than pleasant circumstances, Elysee decides to hire Tish as the official photographer for the wedding so that she can approach Tish, girlfriend to girlfriend, to figure out ways to handle her future husband. Tish knows that taking the gig is a bad idea, but the Great Plot Device in the blessed heavens has decreed that Tish's wedding videography business is in the pits so it's not like she can turn down the gig.

Soon Shane "Hur... dur... duh!" Tremont and Tish are heavy breathing and groping all over the place like the folks on The Real World. I'd feel sorry for the naïve Elysee if it weren't clear from the start that she doesn't love Shane as much as she loves the fantasy of being loved by a knight in shining armor. She's better off without Shane, in fact.

I don't have issues with Shane and Tish committing emotional and physical cuckoldry on Elysee. However, I do have a problem trying to figure out why these characters are being so melodramatic about what they do. Seriously, Shane is engaged to the President's daughter. Is he crazy? Perhaps it is a good thing that we are talking about the President of the USA and not, say, the King of Bahrain, because then things can get ugly. A decent man would have removed his rear end off that particular toilet seat long ago and do the decent thing with Elysee, but Shane lumbers around like a dazed twit, molesting the willing Tish while acting like some emo caveman. Tish is like, oh, oh, oh, he's touching her there, oh, oh oh, but come on. These two act like they are some kind of grand lovers torn by... something, I guess... when they are actually behaving like two people who just want to rip off each other's clothes and shag the night away.

Maybe I'd be more sympathetic if the author had had her characters connect to each other on a more emotional level first. Here, when the two characters reunite, they are antagonistic but they also desire each other still. Ms Wilde's mistake here, I feel, is to have the characters then start pawing each other in a love-hate-whatever way when a more believable approach would be to have these characters talk, exorcise all their past demons in the closet, and maybe even throw things at each other before succumbing to their libido. Without a strong emotional bond evident, Tish and Shane come off like two weak-willed creeps who are sneaking off to the nearest broom closet to hump away the rest of the night during some Christmas office party.

When Elysee remarks that she wishes she will find a "connection" like that between Tish and Shane one day, my response to her is, "Oh baby, that's easy. Just give him enough alcohol and he'd behave just like Shane." Okay, so two people are theoretically "connected" if they are shagging - if you know what I mean - but I don't think Elysee is talking about that kind of connection.

Like I've said, maybe I'm just too old, or maybe I've seen too many drunk people dry hump each other like silly mules on Real World and Big Brother episodes, but I find it really hard to take this melodramatic angst-ridden "Our humping, it's so complicated!" drama of theirs seriously. He's engaged, she's getting physical with him while his fiancée's not looking, and finally, they realize they are still into each other. How mundane. What's on the evening news?

Rating: 56

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