Wordbeams, $4.15, ISBN 1-58785-000-1
Contemporary Romance, 2000
Jezebel and the Egghead takes on the tried-and-tested formula of pairing the new age kook with the stuffy conservative for laughs, and thankfully, it isn’t as Twilight Zone-y as it could have been. It is surprisingly restrained when it comes to the heroine’s antics, although it still equates new age lifestyle with some really bizarre and outlandish antics I doubt even Dharma Finkelstein-Montgomery of Dharma & Greg would touch with a ten-foot pole.
Natty Devington is an ardent defender of the romance genre. Or rather, romance with covers featuring half-naked steroidal men in skimpy tattered clothes clasping the milky-white, bosomy slender woman in his arms sort. In short, if this is a strident defender of the romance, I’d appreciate if she will change her reading habit by taking up, oh, say serial killer fiction or something. Stop embarrassing the rest of us, damn it! Natty also dabbles in fortune-telling with the aid of her crystal ball. Needless to say, she opens a romance bookstore-cum-soothsayer’s booth to earn a living. This is so embarrassing for romance readers everywhere.
Natty is happy with her life, her only complaint being that bestselling authors like Nora Roberts would never grace her store for autographing sessions. I can see Nora Roberts running for the hills now. When Natty’s sister drops by with her boyfriend, Natty is mad. She is angry because her sister has told her beforehand to rein in the romance novel hysterics and beefcake advocations. Natty would show her! With the aid of her fellow kooky friend, she transforms her place into some extreme new age-meets-loud-tasteless-antique-collector-haunt that would send sister darling into the cardiology ward. In short, Natty proves her sister right – she is the truly embarrassing black sheep in the family.
It is too bad that when Natty meets Professor Arch McKay, her sister’s intended, she starts getting vision of getting clasped by him in some romance cover pose. So, on top of being the embarrassing family relative, Natty is going to be the boyfriend-pincher as well. Bravo, Natty, bravo!
Now, as much as I admire Natty’s zealous devotion to clinch covers and her defiant “So romance novels have sex and it has beefcakes, but I like it so FUCK YOU!” (she says this much more delicately, of course) attitude, she remains a one-note character. Likewise, everyone else in this story barely develops any depths. I never cease to see them as comic figures, therefore it is hard to develop anything more than cursory interest in them.
For instance, what makes Arch tick? Why is he interested in Natty? Why Natty? These questions are never answered to my satisfaction. Likewise, why Arch? He’s handsome, and… and… nothing much else. There’s also a tarot-reading dog that’s pretty charming, but all in all, while Jezebel and the Egghead mildly entertains, it lacks depths to elevate it from being a mere okay read into something more substantial.