Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7508-1
Contemporary Romance, 2003
I wasn’t aware until I notice the name at the copyright statement that author Kirstin Hill also writes historical romances under the name Candace McCarthy. This is the first time I am reading the author’s book under the Kirstin Hill name, and Hot under the Collar is every bit as painful to read as the historical romances written under her other name.
Utilizing the familiar and ridiculous “me sexy/not really” schizoid dichotomy heroine and really inane mistaken identities, this book is basically all about a heroine cruising on brain tank empty and a creep hero taking her for a ride all the way to the end. Cassie Knight is the typical idiot heroine that insists on being pure and prim even as she becomes a late night DJ, “Sondra”, where she unleashes her inner slut. Or something. If you like all those stories about prim librarians getting drunk and doing stripper acts only to go “Oh my God! I am so ashamed! And I AM PREGNANT!” like six thousand Harlequin Blaze books out there, you’ll like Cassie here. “Sondra” blows kisses and speaks in a breathy voice, and apparently everyone in Baltimore is so starved of entertainment that “Sondra” becomes a major celebrity there. But nobody knows what “Sondra” look like. It is up to Nathan Taylor, reporter and all time smarm, to find out who “Sondra” is. After a few failed attempts, he impersonates a Frenchman, Henri, and approaches a coworker at the station, Cassie. And Cassie, the idiot, falls hook, line, and sinker to “Henri”‘s calculated seduction.
The author pretty much gives away how shoddy her plotting is early in the book when in Chapter One, Cassie’s mother calls her up only to lecture Cassie on the evils of living in the big city, and after a few pages of shrill bitchiness, hangs up. Why did the mother call in the first place? And then I am introduced to Nate when he’s trying to get in bed with a woman that’s still smarting from being dumped by her boyfriend, solely for sex. What a charmer. The rest of the story sees Cassie being so unbelievably gullible and Nate so cold and ruthless in his plots and strategies that it’s like watching a happy sheep being led to the abattoir. Cassie also has that annoying “He can’t love me! He loves Sondra! Boo hoo hoo!” nonsense going on. Meanwhile, Nate really dazzles me when he realizes that he can’t lie to Cassie any more a few chapters close to the end of the book but decides that he must keep up the charade because otherwise he will lose his job – how else will he support Cassie then? So he must find “Sondra” and then, having screwed Cassie in more ways than one, he will apologize, tell her he loves her, and everything will be okay again. And shame on Cassie, she actually buys that act. Sucker.
I also find it rather insulting that in the end, it is Cassie that must undergo the epiphany – that is, she realizes that Nate is right, she is both Sondra and Cassie, so hurrah, no more schizo heroine! – instead of Nate that has been lying to her all this while. Actually, forget epiphany, both of them just need to go back to school and learn how to stop being so stupid before they pretend to be grown-ups in love.
Hot under the Collar is a so-so Harlequin Blaze book but a truly horrible, unrealistic, and pathetic “Con the nitwit heroine and make her love you!” romance book.