Jove, $7.50, ISBN 0-515-12801-5
Contemporary Romance, 2000
You know, if I have my way, I’d love to be a character in a Jayne Ann Krentz novel. Really, how could I not resist a life of idyllic banters, cheerful repartees, and problem-free life? Of course, I’d want to be a secondary character. I have no taste for playing Nancy Drew in some third rate mystery, and doggone it, I miss Burger King too much to be a vegetarian.
Eclipse Bay is less suspense-oriented and more of a throwback to good old days when the author focused her stories more on the characters than who killed who. Hence, it still has the spark of fun. It’s a comfort read, of course, with recycled elements from Hidden Talents, Family Man, and Orchid (written under the Jayne Castle name) too strong to be overlooked.
Hannah Harte is a member of the Harte clan who pride themselves in order, sterling portfolio, and everything yuppie. Rafe Madison’s family boasts of a tradition of broken marriages, criminal records, and meaningless relationships. Once Gramp Harte and Gramp Madison were best buddies and business partners, but a smart woman played each other out and caused them to punch each other in public.
It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet, but the Hartes and the Madisons stay out of each other’s way since.
Until one night when Hannah gets kicked out of her boyfriend’s car when she refuses to sleep with him. She wanders right into Rafe who himself is kicked out of his girlfriend’s car. They discuss Hannah’s wish list for a husband and he kisses her chastely on the lips goodnight.
The next morning, Rafe’s ex-girlfriend is found dead. Hannah steps in to be Rafe’s alibi, much to the horror of her family. Rafe never forgets this. Not that he can, because eight years later he and Hannah end up sharing her late great-aunt Isabel’s house.
She wants to sell her wedding catering and arrangement company to start an inn-cum-restaurant. So does he. And neither refuses to sell out. Oh boy.
There’s something very charming about a professional wedding organizer who is most cynical about marriages. “There’s nothing like repeat customers,” Hannah says drolly. And Hannah and Rafe’s interaction in the first two-thirds of the book sizzle with fun and banter. Not exactly sexy or naughty, but their repartees leave a warm feeling in me. It is always nice to see people becoming friends before lovers after all.
There’s also an adorable Schnauzer doggie, whose excursion into an adult’s store is simply hilarious.
But when the story plunges into a typically boring mystery in the last third – so, who killed Rafe’s ex-girlfriend eight years ago? – I really begin to yawn. Hannah and Rafe become more interested in clues than in each other, and it’s too bad because their relationship is just about to get more interesting when it gets shoved aside for some lousy Nancy Drew adventure. And the suspense isn’t even very interesting.
For a few hours of fun and wit, Eclipse Bay meets that demand pretty well. But really, it cost me $7.50! I can’t help wondering if I should’ve just stuck to rereading my old copy of Hidden Talents instead.