St Martin’s Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-98623-8
Contemporary Romance, 2003
There’s a little bit of unintentional amusement in this book being called Changing the Rules when it commits most of the common mistakes typical of its kind: too much tedious “I can’t trust any man ever!” antics from the heroine, a very messy plot, and too many attempts at urbane humor that don’t really work. If Niqui Stanhope wants to change the rules of good storytelling in any way, well, she has to rethink her strategy a little before trying one more time.
Marcel Templeton – that’s the heroine – and her friend Tracy are fed up with getting nowhere in their love life. At her thirtieth birthday, she and Tracy draw up what Ms Stanhope hopes to be revolutionary radical ideas: one, these women will not date players (if these women haven’t gotten this in their thick heads all these years, no wonder they are so miserable) and two, no handsome men. The last one, of course, is ridiculous. There is no way Marcel is going to end up marrying a Martin Lawrence instead of a Taye Diggs, so all you guys out there, don’t get too excited, dears.
When Ian Michaels bumps his car into hers soon after she has drawn up the list, Marcel is intrigued by this hunky rich fellow. Unfortunately, he’s gorgeous, and to Marcel’s mind, this instantly means that Ian is a handsome player. That’s a no-no in her book. Unfortunately, Ian isn’t taking no for an answer. From mowing her lawn – get your mind out of the gutter, people, I’m talking about the literal mowing the lawn thing here – to planning a hostile takeover over Marcel’s magazine, he’s going to make this thing work. Oops, did I mention that hostile takeover thing?
The hero Ian is a stock character that comes complete with kiddie baggage (a niece) and of course, career woman Marcel will feel this unexpectedly warm maternal instinct inside of her to nurse and nanny forever and ever so it must be true love. Unfortunately, Marcel is an irritating heroine in that she persists in thinking the worst of Ian even when he’s being really nice to her. She also comes with an overbearing mother, as if her being overbearing by herself isn’t enough.
Changing the Rules drags on and on, fueled by the heroine’s annoying tendency to think the worst of Ian and the both of them indulging in so many episodes of tiny misunderstandings and miscommunications. Without a decent plot to salvage the lackluster stock characters populating the story, this one follows romance novel clichés too faithfully to the point of flatness.