Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-051724-7
Contemporary Romance, 2004
Hot Stuff is a story that exists in a vacuum where logic does not exist. The premise is quite implausible, but that is still acceptable if the author manages to wrap up the story in a nice, entertaining, and credible manner. By credible I mean that the characters’ actions and thought processes are recognizably human. But the heroine behaves in an irrational manner pretty much throughout the entire book, and this irrational mood swing of hers drive the entire story. Oh boy.
Tabloid DC Scene columnist Laurel Kane sincerely believes that love and marriage go together like supermodels and encyclopedias. She believes that marriage should be approached like a business decision, or the search of a prospective employee – you study the candidate’s background, analyze his personality, and put ticks on her List, that sort of thing. She even has a bible to guide her on her navigation in the dark oceans of the utterly clueless: some stupid book called Love Is Not the Answer which only enforces her philosophy. This leads Laurel to clash opinions with the idealistic Joe, who manages the coffee cart at the office, who of course believes that love makes the world go round.
The problem with this book is that Elaine Fox doesn’t even try to persuade me to believe that maybe once, just once, Laurel can be right. Laurel is obviously wrong, but at the same time, this woman comes off as totally irrational instead of being merely misguided. Since she doesn’t believe in love and Joe is the singular one-dimensional Mr Nice Guy foil for her, what’s her problem then in pursuing a relationship with him? What other qualities does she want in her lover? Unless she is looking for a complete creep that smacks her around while ordering her to clean up the house, stay slim after popping out seven brats but he can get fat all he wants, and cook for him and his friends on every night which is poker night with the guys, there’s no reason for her to spend two hundred pages whining about why she cannot walk into the sunset with Joe. Don’t even ask me why Joe will even want anything to do with her. Apart from the fact that she’s beautiful, Laurel comes off as a complete killjoy with two screws loose in her brain.
If the author wants to create some 1940’s style gender war romance, the least she can do is to at least put some thought into her plot before she writes. The plot of Hot Stuff may work if Laurel is the high school newspaper editor, Joe is the lovelorn geek, and both of them are sixteen and immature. But this book is supposed to be about adults! If I ask, “Why doesn’t the heroine just marry the guy and be done with it? Why does this story have to be so long?” by page 150 and the author still cannot answer me by the last page, this is clearly a one-dimensional, ill-thought out book that is very lacking in recognizably human motivations and behaviors in its main characters.