Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58231-3
Contemporary Romance, 2000
First Kiss is another well-written, technically faultless book that makes a fun read. The emotional issues are pretty lightweight, though, unlike the chronic bitterness that plagued the author’s previous efforts.
But it has one prime meat for my meat cleaver of a nitpicking. It plays on my pet peeve: the presumption that promiscuous women are all from lousy broken homes and their secret wish is to be just like Miss Priss the Golden Contemporary Heroine. I can’t help feeling whether this is some sort of vendetta against the most popular and easy cheerleaders in our schooldays.
Holly McBride is the easy lady in question. She runs an inn in Bethlehem and has played best buddies to the heroines in the previous two books by the author. Finally, I thought, an author does the daring thing by giving the town slut own story. Too bad the humanization of Holly comes with an alcoholic mother and lots of emotional issues.
Tom Flynn, also a recurrent best buddy, also gets his story. He too is a male slut who yearns for relationships but can’t disentangle himself from the bevy of temporary night birds that keep flirting in and out of his life. When Holly teases him to wish for her over his fortieth birthday cake, he does just that, and oh boy.
Tom is a bit of a dunce when it comes to courtship. He can’t measure her suitability with a calculator or a computer, so he decides to court her business style. She, in turn, takes on the good gal role and starts wondering if (a) she will ever be worthy of him due to her not-too-pristine home and background, (b) if Tom wants her or her genitals only, (c) if she will ever make babies and be a good mommy. In short, she completely goes into Auto-Worrier mode.
The storytelling is fine, flowing smoothly, but this time around, I’m a bit bored. Tom’s the quintessential too-silly overly-calculative millionaire. Despite her slu- er, experience, Holly is actually misunderstood. Spare her your judgments, readers – her mom drinks too much and didn’t teach her never to give out. Boohoo. The passel of eccentric, cheerleading secondary characters – including the obligatory dotty old ladies and cute lil’ kiddies – round up the Hallmark small town scene.
Wonder if one day happy slutty women would get their share of love in romance novels. As long as sloths get typecast as the “Oh hero, save me from my promiscuity and judge me not for I am from a broken home!” type of damsels, though, I think they’re better off out of the limelight.