Berkley Sensation, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-23340-5
Contemporary Romance, 2010
The story of Mad, Bad and Blonde begins when Faith West, a librarian, is jilted at the altar by her fiancé Adam. Apparently he’d rather take a hike to Bali than to get hitched to her. Defiant, she gets drunk and ends up going solo on her planned honeymoon trip to Naples, Italy. The fact that she was inspired by the movie Under the Tuscan Sun to go there should have been a warning sign of some sort, as Diane Lane’s character did not find a happy ending with her Italian lover in that movie.
In Italy, she gets a makeover, which includes dying her hair blonde, and sleeps with the looming hunk Caine Hunter who seems to be stalking her. I’m sure you can guess that he’s actually a PI sent by the rival of her father’s PI firm for… uh, some reason, and that she discovers this only after she has taken him to bed. The story later moves back to Chicago, where Faith quits her job at the library to become a PI at her father’s agency. Because Caine keeps stalking her, she becomes so charmed by him that they begin embarking on some truly obviously amateurish sleuthing to clear his father’s name, even if doing so will not make her father happy. What do you expect? Romance heroines always drop their beloved fathers for the first hot guy that penetrates their defenses.
Mad, Bad and Blonde doesn’t bring anything new to the table as far as originality or even freshness is concerned, and it also feels like a rushed effort. The story is full of obvious padding. For example, when Faith returns from Italy, she recounts her encounter with Caine to several characters consecutively. There are sentences that just drag on and on because the author feels this need to explain every single thing that happens in the story. For example:
Monday morning, Faith’s BlackBerry started vibrating the instant she sat down in her cubicle. She didn’t have it set to ringtones when she was at work. She hoped it was Caine, who’d stopped by her condo last night and made love to her again and stayed long enough this morning to make breakfast for her, but a quick glance at the screen let her know that the call was from her friend Sherry Weiss, the forensic accountant.
What is this? Some kind of fanfiction written by a teenage girl?
Strangely enough, despite the author’s tendency to list down every minute thing that happens in the story, she sometimes forgets what she has written earlier on. An amusing example is how early on in the story, the heroine listens to Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy in her car, but in the next paragraph, she is listening instead to songs from a Bon Jovi album.
Meanwhile, the romance is not too interesting. The hero and the heroine fall in love, the author tells me, but I don’t really see it. The hero is a stalker whose only halfway commendable trait is that he can somehow gives the heroine multiple orgasms even with a flick of his finger. This may be a great virtue in a temporary lover, but Caine is too much of a creepy ex-Marine stalker to be an ideal husband material in my eyes. He is also not too sharp, with using his real name while working undercover and leaving his wallet behind with Faith (so that she can discover his job) at the early parts of this story. For a man determined to clear his father’s name, he also doesn’t seem to be doing anything much other than stalking Faith. The romance “happens” pretty much because there is no getting away from Caine: the author contrives to have events and secondary characters throw Caine and Faith together.
The author attempts to provide some cozy mystery-cum-comedy moments when Faith and Caine are doing their investigation together, but even then, the story never really manages to deliver the punchlines.
As a result of all these, Mad, Bad and Blonde is a story that tries to cover much ground only to end nowhere because the execution is half-hearted. There is too much padded feel to the story, too much contrivance in the development of the romance, and too much awkward writing that shouldn’t be coming from a published author who has been in the business for so long now. I don’t know if this book had actually been rushed to the publisher, but it sure feels like one.