by Joan Wolf, contemporary (2002)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-61042-9

Joan Wolf tries to downplay her shift to the contemporary suspense genre by saying oh pooh, she wrote some category romances years ago, so see, she actually has some street cred when it comes to contemporary romances! Yeah, grandma, your street cred is so obvious, especially in your depiction of the movie industry like some Shirley Temple cutesy porn fantasy.

I don't know why romance authors, when writing about the movie industry, all follow the same freaking formula. Mary Jo Putney, Suzanne Brockmann, and now Joan Wolf - do they have a Bible of Formulas in some dark, secret vault under the RWA building or something that all authors must follow religiously?

Yeah, in Hollywood and in America, Regency England rules. Movies made about the Regency period sell out like hot crap and books about them win the Booker prize left and right (keep dreaming, Ms Wolf, and maybe one day). Our heroine Tracy Collins is an actress. This means that she doesn't give out, and no, she doesn't want to sleep with Ben Affleck, she just admires his acting.

Have Ms Wolf seen Pearl Harbor, for goodness sake? Or did she just pull open an edition of EW from her neighborhood newsstand and just grab a name at random?

Then again, I wouldn't mind having Ben Affleck's baby. Hey, that's just me. Ms Wolf would surely cast me as that Slut Actress playing a Slut in the movie set of Silverbridge. See, unlike Tracy, who marries a man she has loved since third grade and then mourns his death for so long, I like the idea of having sex with Ben Affleck. I must be a slut then. Oh, sorry, Ms Wolf is much more genteel. I believe the word she uses is "nymphomaniac". Call me Queen Nympho then, please. I insist.

Naturally, since people all over the world are in love with English aristocrats, our aristocratic superman Harry Olivier, whom Tracy, a modern woman, actually calls "My lord" in a raptured expression, is the man to rekindle our heroine's Anglophile juices. They then proceed to have a chemistry-free, sexual-tensionless, biteless, passionless romance, and the whole clinical agony of this Pap Smear test of a story is relieved only by the surprisingly smart mystery of who's trying to kill Harry. Not that it's that unpredictable, but the mystery still rocks compared to Tracy's pathetic, 18th century feudal-worship antics.

Oh, and did I mention some ghosts who look just like Harry and Tracy? They are lovers of Some Grand Passion in the distant past, and I know it's a Grand Passion because they keep talking about it, but they are just annoying gnats that only reinforce this nauseatingly overpowering Anglophilia propaganda.

Joan Wolf's next contemporary romance - sorry, Regency fans, another rat has jumped the sinking ship, see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya, etc - is set in America and promises to be more "women's fiction" than romance. Here's hoping that book will have at least one foot grounded on modern day norms and reality. Okay, maybe I'm asking for too much. How about two toes then?

Rating: 48

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