St Martin’s Press, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-312-94673-9
Contemporary Romance, 2010
Sometimes writing a book can be akin to airing one’s dirty laundry in public. That’s my thought as I read Heidi Betts’s Knock Me for a Loop, because this author ends up revealing to the reader just how little she knows about what she is writing. I don’t follow hockey, mind you. If you ask me to name a hockey player, my answer is, “Er, didn’t Rob Lowe play such a character in Youngblood back in the 1980’s?” But even so, reading this book has me wondering whether the scenarios presented in the story will even take place in a contemporary setting.
Oh, and this is a big misunderstanding story, with the characters behaving silly to prolong the drama, so if you don’t like such plots, be warned. “Hot Legs” Zack Hoolihan – that’s a H, not a G, people – is the star goalkeeper of the Cleveland hockey team. His ex is “Amazing” Grace Fisher, a popular daytime talk show. They broke up in the previous loosely related book Loves Me, Loves Me Knot when she thought he was cheating on her and went all Bust Your Windows on his car. In this story, Zack experiences a knee injury, stubbornly refuses to go to rehabilitation, and you can guess who ends up playing the tender caregiver to him, I’m sure.
The first problem here is that I have a hard time believing that a star goalkeeper in a top hockey team is allowed to skip rehab. Don’t they have contracts or something to force such players to go get treatment because, after all, a lot of money is at stake here? And then we have Grace, a daytime talk show host with no medical qualification, tending to Zack 24/7. Again, I have a hard time believing that Zack’s handlers will be so sanguine to allow such an arrangement. That is, unless Zack is nowhere as important an asset to the team as Ms Betts would like me to believe, heh.
Next is the fact that, despite being a talk show host and a professional hockey player respectively, both Grace and Zack exhibit little passion for the work they do. Zack doesn’t follow sports or watch the game on TV. He’d rather knit. Grace’s schedule is surprisingly flexible for someone with her job, when everyone who follows these things even a little know that you tend to have a lot of preparation taking place long before a daytime episode is aired. Worse, Ms Betts has a curiously deflated sense of her characters’ worth. Zack – who has enough money to last three lifetimes according to Ms Betts – and his team mates spend a lot of time acting as if Zack’s 52″ flat screen TV is the best thing ever they have ever seen. A quick look at Amazon’s electronic section tells me that these devices sell for under $2,000. What alternate universe are we talking about, where wealthy and grossly overpaid athletes will act as if some TV that costs $2,000 is like nothing that they have ever seen before?
That’s my problem with this story in a nutshell. Ms Betts tells me that her characters are national-level superstars, but these two twits behave more like small town heroes in the 1980’s, when 52″ TVs are still a thing of mythological luxury. The author is more comfortable with knitting drama and more familiar formulaic tropes in a small town romance that manage to seep into this story. Therefore, she comes off as horribly outclassed while trying to pull off a more urban story with a more sophisticated setting.
Perhaps if Zack is the sheriff of a podunk town and Grace is the obligatory kindergarten teacher and this whole story is of a length typical of a Harlequin Blaze, Knock Me for a Loop may acquit itself with some dignity. Then again, that doesn’t excuse the big misunderstanding scenario, where Grace stupidly believed that Zack would happily let her into his room to make love to her if he actually had some floozy hidden away in his room. Ms Betts seems to have decided on the big misunderstanding scenario first when it comes to her story and then came up with increasingly daft and contrived lengths to justify the continuation of this misunderstanding. The whole book ends up being a demonstration of an author struggling to stay afloat when she’s way out of her depths, and it’s pretty uncomfortable to read this book as a result.