Harper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-198594-2
Contemporary Romance, 2010 (Reissue)
Hero at Large is Janet Evanovich’s first ever published romance novel, released back in 1987 under the name Steffie Hall. That’s right, this one is almost 30 years old, and little has been changed aside from cleaning up the copy in the 2010 reissue. Therefore, this one feels really dated, with some really cringe-making antiquated gender roles on top of the author’s formula of pairing a desperately beleaguered and incompetent heroine with a hero who solves all her problems for her.
Even by the author’s standards, the heroine Chris Nelson is pretty spectacular in her mix of incompetency and obstinacy. As expected, she has money problems. She’s a single mom because her husband dumped her when she was pregnant and refused to have an abortion, and I guess she can’t read the phone book and hence can’t seek a lawyer to sic on her ex. When the story opens, oil is leaking from her coffin with wheels, and since she has no money, the best thing to do is to drive that thing on the road and then get stranded there, completely unable to do anything. As the hero Ken Callahan will put it when he later stops to help her, she needs a man to fix her car for her.
Because Ken makes some innuendos, Chris pegs him as “oversexed” and accidentally slams the hood down on his hands, causing him to break one arm. She reluctantly gets into his vehicle to drive him to the hospital, but because his Rottweiler is in there and Ken is so… big, Chris is squeezed up against hot man flesh and her head does a 360 out of panic. Oh no, she is attracted to a man who is rude and boorish and oversexed and horrible (okay, he helps her, but whatever, OVERSEXED) and while she wants to sex him up and down so bad, she’s not going to because she is not going to even if she really wants to because she is not going to, ever, never ever not going to but oh, she wants to so, so, so bad but no, she is never going to… I’m sure you get the idea of our heroine’s state of mind.
Chris is really a piece of work because not only does she embody the epitome of the utterly useless bimbo, she is also determined to be an independent and fiery woman, even if she can’t take two steps without falling flat on her face. She will scold and berate Ken even if she secretly gushes like a waterfall at the sight of him, all the while playing hot and cold, and acting as if the very idea of even being attracted to a man is akin to bringing the wrath of… something… on her head. This is one neurotic, unlikable, unnecessarily confrontational heroine who keeps battering the hero out of accident. I honestly have no idea why anyone would be attracted to this thing.
And the most bizarre thing is the end conflict. She thinks that Ken is a jobless hobo, and I’m pretty sure I’m not spoiling the story when I tell you that he’s actually loaded. When the heroine discovers that the man she has fallen in love with comes with bags and bags of money, she is furious. She fell in love with a poor, jobless hobo, so damn it, how dare he end up being the same guy, but with a job and lots of money! What a jerk! An asshole! LIAR!
The rest of the humor is the same old stuff if you are familiar with the author’s repertoire. Pushy, busybody old ladies, heroine’s vehicles that keep breaking down, the dog, et cetera. Therefore, the only thing that makes Hero at Large really stand out is the heroine’s spectacular brand of dumb dumb. If you are a collector of the author’s works or you just feel like gaping at crazy people doing stupid things, this one may be worth a look. Everyone else, you’ve been warned.