Harlequin Duets, $5.99, ISBN 0-373-44076-6
Contemporary Romance, 1999
I’m fan of Colleen Collins’s two really wonderful Harlequin Love & Laughter books Right Chest, Wrong Name and Right Chapel, Wrong Couple. This book is related to the previous two in that this is the story of the friend of the heroine of Right Chapel, Wrong Couple, a Las Vegas showgirl who help the couple to escape a mob boss.
The Conventional Police must have caught Belle somewhere in between that book and this book and turned her into a stereotypical “I am Woman, Independent and Need No One (Darling, you may help me but I don’t WANT your help… oh, okay, you can help me after I shed some obligatory tears to show my reluctance on relying on a man first)” sort of heroine. Worse, the wit and dry humor Belle exhibited in Right Chapel, Wrong Couple is gone, to be replaced by the same old tedious “I have no sense of humor!” thing. Oh, the author, a former stand-up comedienne, lets fly some zinger lines, but thanks to stock characterization and a rather lackluster – and slow – story, I am hard-pressed not to put this story down and look up the really funny two books preceding it.
What happened to Belle?
I’m a little bit disappointed – okay, very – when I find this story so, well, unexciting and unfunny. It is as if Ms Collins is trying to conform to the formulaic guidelines of “Ye heroine must be wimps!” rule infamous in category romances. If the next book has a cop hero I’m really going to go down to Don Mills, Ontario, and buy over Harlequin and turn it into a Chippendale bar. Consider this a warning.
Oh, the story. Belle puts away her sequined feathers and boas. She’s 37, way too old to be a showgirl for long. She inherited a diner from her beloved aunt and she is excited to start life anew. But she has to make it to Wyoming from Las Vegas in three days. Belle packs up her parakeet Louie and Lover Boy, the fattest cat in the world, packs everything in her beat up jeep, and goes to where no woman has ever been before. Only that an idiot in an expensive Jaguar whose plate reads COMMUNIC8 causes her to skid and the Jeep to go brr-brr-pzzzt-pish! Telecommunications and publishing tycoon Dirk Harriman is the idiot in question and he has a dateline in the other side of the country to catch himself, but he feels obligated to help this woman get her Jeep back in order. Besides, she has the sexiest thighs he’d ever seen (I am not making this up!). Only that they find it harder to stay unstuck along the journey. Life’s like that.
She loves country and detests classical stuff. Anything cowboy gives him hives and Mozart’s his thing. She calls her Jeep a Jeep and wears vulgarly garish clothes. He calls his Jaguar a ve-hi-cal and is all prim and proper. It’s a match made in heaven.
Married After Breakfast should be fun. A cat named Lover Boy who is drugged on cat tranquilizers to prevent car-sickness, a parakeet that insists on having the last word, Dirk administrating CPR on Lover Boy… but while this may be fun, the characters are surprisingly boring. Belle insists on being independent to the point of foolhardiness. She has no money and is fighting time to reach Wyoming. Her Jeep is down and Dirk offers to pay her airfare to Wyoming, but she refuses. She declares she doesn’t take charity. I wonder if she’s thinking straight. Likewise, she adamantly refuses other forms of reasonable aids from Dirk when odds are staked against her. She never unbends her rigid spine, even at the end, until I find myself going Good grief. I can see these two people in five years’ time, bickering because she won’t tell him anything or ask him for anything, causing him to feel hurt, alienated, and angry. Not exactly a nice thing in a romance story.