Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-050947-3
Contemporary Romance, 2005
I’ve been following the author’s books pretty faithfully, so I don’t think it’s me. It must be Elizabeth Bevarly then. Somewhere between the last few books and this one, Just Like a Man, her writing has changed. She repeats herself more often than not, creating pages and pages of circular psychobabble that go nowhere for so long, often littered with the same phrases popping up in the same context again and again. It is as if I am reading the online blogs of fifteen-year old girls who believe that if they apishly use cool faddish words of the moment often enough they will convince the world that they have wit and snark.
In Ms Bevarly’s case, she repeats a few phrases again and again and again and again, drops it and I sigh in relief, only to have me cringing again when I realize that she has just dropped one overused phrase and substituted it with another. The plot is on the farcical side but that’s okay, an Elizabeth Bevarly book won’t be what it is without farce. What I cannot stand for long is the author’s constant hammering of a few phrases or a punchline that she loves too much not to overuse until the pages bleed with the constant flogging of the dead horse. For this book, the author, it seems, has just discovered the wonderful concept of pluck, so she has the heroines of the story constantly in what is best described as pluck-overdrive mode.
The heroine Hannah Frost will want the world to know that she is overworked, overextended, overdressed – did I miss something out? – but underpaid, yet she has plenty of energy and enthusiasm to Fuss! Cheer! Yap! Shriek! Woo-hoo! The hero Michael Sawyer, a CPA, will want the world to know that he has no time for romance. He doesn’t want to be a secret agent anymore! But he is! And he is hot! Ooh-hoo! And his kid, Alex, is precocious! Smart! A smart aleck nine-year old! Says things so precious and so cute that you must adore him! And there’s a bad guy! Adrian! Who is there for who-knows-what because the story is so manic, the author more or less doesn’t care about why, ha ha! But he is in the board of Hannah’s school for teaching genius brats to be snobs with huge sense of elitism, so Michael sends Alex, supposedly his darling kiddie, into the school in order to get close to Adrian! Daddy uses own son as bait in a dangerous mission – someone gives the man a Tiger! Michael likes Hannah! Hannah likes Michael! They’re both hot! But Hannah likes to think that she is methodical! No love for her! Ever! How adorable! Are you sick of seeing exclamation marks yet? Well, I have to use them to convey how spirited this book is!
There’s also a secondary romance, between a young woman who is spunky, sweet, kind, selfless, charitable, a teacher (of course) falling for a billionaire old enough to be her father but it is not disgusting, people, because she isn’t in love with him for his money, it’s just… er, love! Even if he pretty much lifts her from her life of drudgery, kinda like Donald Trump giving his Vegas lapdancer a tip of ten thousand grand for a job well done and the happy lapdancer goes off to buy plenty of coke, it’s okay because she loves him and he loves her and the money? Oh, that’s just money, pffft! This one is sweet, cloying, although fans of perky people will appreciate the fact that Selby is still perky and plucky. Personally, I think the overworked, overextended Selby is a nervous breakdown waiting to happen, but I’m not too worried. Her Sugar Daddy, sorry, Prince Charming will hold her hand and kiss the pain away.
If the reader can endure the constant overemphasis on everything perky, plucky, spirited, adorable, feisty, sassy, and spunky about the heroines and basically everything else, she may find that Hannah and Michael have very well-fleshed out backgrounds and motivations that make them what they are when they first meet. The secondary romance is a rescue fantasy sugarcoated as a romance (sort of like the TV show The Bachelor pretending to be all about true love) but the main romance could have been a well-done wacky and over-the-top but still romantic and emotionally satisfying story. But the whole plot angle regarding Adrian just fizzles anticlimactically, giving me this impression that very little thought has actually gone into this subplot.
What can I say? If you are the kind of person who hangs on to every word that comes out from the mouths of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore on that TV show The Gilmore Girls, or better still, you can quote lines from the show at the speed they are originally spoken and you do so to every guest at the party, the absence of the word “restraint” in Ms Bevarly’s personal dictionary may not bother you too much. For me, I wish that the author had taken a pause or two while she was working on this book to reorganize her writing or consult a thesaurus because most of the time the same set of words just keep coming in exactly the same pattern again and again in this book until it’s like a truck at full speed ahead hitting me straight in the chest, stopping when I’m down, reversing and running over me again, repeat and rinse, until my senses are completely mangled into a steaming pile of goo.