LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52664-6
Contemporary Romance, 2005
Imagine my lack of surprise when I come across the author admitting on her blog that she hadn’t watched any reality TV show, except for an episode of Survivor, before writing Jane Millionaire. I can tell, darling, while reading this book. While Ms Lynn claimed that she did her research before writing this story, I have to wonder whether the research she did consisted solely of reading a few romance novels that revolved around a reality TV show.
Because, you see, this story is exceptionally similar to every other romance story with such a premise. I can only wonder whether RWA did some kind of workshop on plotting such stories, because every other romance story with a reality TV show exhibits the same unrealistic and often completely wrong concepts and notions about how such a show works. Reality TV show doesn’t work the same way as a movie, a basic concept that many authors, including Janice Lynn, don’t seem to get.
In this one, Jill Davidson allows her sister to persuade her to participate in a reality TV show called Jane Millionaire in that sister’s place. The sister has just gotten engaged, you see. With very little knowledge of how the show works, Jill decides to go ahead and pretend to be her sister. This very premise has me scratching my head there and then, because with all that contracts Jill’s sister would have signed prior to agreeing to be on the show, Jill just can’t waltz up on stage, so to speak, without the numbers of at least ten good lawyers on speed dial on her phone just in case. And I find it even more implausible that no one will catch on to Jill’s deception, given that she’s not exactly the best liar around.
And just like every other story with a reality TV show premise, the contestant falls for the producer. Honestly, I don’t know why it’s always the producer. Why not the coffee boy? Rob Lancester is also a cliché – he’s another pretty boy in the entertainment business who believes that all women in the business are shallow tramps. I’ve always wondered why these men would lower themselves to work in an industry that they think so little of, but I suppose it’s because the lifestyle of a romance hero can get pretty expensive to maintain, heh.
This story doesn’t work with me on a fundamental level because the author’s portrayal of how a reality TV show works sees her taking too many creative liberties (let’s just say, because I’m trying to be kind here) with the premise. As a reality TV contestant, Jill still manages to find time to gambol around as if she’s starring in a musical interlude from a Bollywood movie when in real life a reality TV contestant would be hounded by chaperones and tight security. The cameras disappear at convenient moments. Rob, a TV producer, says that he hopes Jill will fall in love by the end of the season, when we all know TV producers are cynical bastards who know very well that their romantic reality TV shows are anything but romantic. And on and on the list of “this will never happen in a real reality TV show set” things will go in this story.
The problem here is that I follow reality TV shows. I have recapped some of them on my website. I follow the behind-the-scene drama of those shows. While I don’t claim to be a reality TV guru, I know enough to realize that many of the scenes in this story are very unlikely to take place in a real but similar setting. I have to suspend my disbelief way too much for this story.
On the bright side, the heroine isn’t annoying. I’m quite surprised, actually, given that I expected Jill to be a dingbat the way the plot can be on the ridiculous side. But Jill can be a savvy and self-aware woman who often surprises me with how smart she can be. It is Rob who is the disappointment here. He’s such a cliché, it’s not even funny.
Jane Millionaire can be an enjoyable romance, I feel, it’s just that this book is unfortunate in the sense that I probably know too much about reality TV to overlook the creative liberties taken by the author to make her story work. I probably would have enjoyed it more if the author has taken a different route with her story.