Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-4604-6
Romantic Suspense, 2003
“Julie Kenner blends the intrigue of film noir with the fun of a sexy romance…” goes the back blurb. Obviously the idiot that wrote that sentence has never watched a noir film before. That or he/she/it expects romance readers to be idiots who assume that a Sam Spade dude is all a noir movie needs. Let me take some time to point out that the term “noir” is coined by French film critics because crime-oriented films of the 1940s to the 1960s were dark and even black in theme and atmosphere.
The key words here being “dark” and “black”. The main characters in noir usually choose the path of most destructive. The moods of noir are always melancholic, reeking of alienation, disillusionment, despair, and desperation. The gangster moll always wins the morally-conflicted antihero while the meek and submissive wife always dies in the first fifteen minutes of the show, fuelling the antihero’s quest for vengeance.
Julie Kenner’s “Me, an Idiotic Dingbat Heroine, and My Sam Spade PI Boyfriend” is as noir as Avril Lavigne is punk.
Jacey Wilder is an idiot. Approaching the age of thirty, she decides to put her life in order. By this, she means that she needs to find the man she met on a holiday fling, a man that lied to her about his name (that’s okay, because she lied to him about her name too, even though she feels guilty about lying because, you see, she’s a heroine and all heroines must be stupid – it’s the new millennium law – all heroines must be stupid!), and whom she later fled from because she suspected that he was a serial killer (his name is Al, and she heard the TV said that there was a serial killer named Alan… something, so omigosh, this Al is the serial killer, oh, oh, oh!). Now, she realized that he is not a serial killer, so she decides to find him again. Because this man that lied to her and whom she suspected to be a serial killer is like the nicest man she has ever met so she wondered if he would be her one and only.
I rest my forehead on the table and wonder if somehow, when I am not looking, the powers-that-be decide that the audience for romance novels must be suckers for actions of idiocy committed by heroines operating under the delusion that they are precious and cute. Stupid morons, let me go noir on them all, take out my machine gun – DIE, BWAHAHAHAHA!
Sorry. I just hate it when people abuse the word “noir”.
Al is a nasty guy. He and bad guys are looking after Jacey. Our hero David Anderson, whom I suspect is a newly minted prototype from Sam Spade Hero Template Version 1.0, is drawn into the fray. As bad guys scheme and our hero tries to keep our heroine safe, Jacey spends the whole time whining about how she can’t meet good guys, she wants to meet good guys, and now that David is a nice guy, he can’t really be nice because, you know, she only meets lousy guys so he must be lousy in some way, so she maybe ought to pretend not to be too attracted and all – ohmigod, that’s an irate reader with an AK-47 – DIE, BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
David is a stock hero. The villains are more appropriate in a Robert De Niro comedy than a noir film. The heroine is operating under the delusion that preciousness and cuteness is the same as a dumb hen walking in the middle of a crossfire clucking that her life sucks because she can’t meet cute guys. Maybe there’s a good story in here somewhere, but the heroine’s nonsense finally overwhelms what little that is amusing about the story. The stock hero and silly villains can do little but to just watch helplessly as the heroine single-handedly drag the story into really annoying territory.
Put in the typical gimmicky overkills of a formulaic contemporary romance – yet another freaking matchmaking dotty old lady, anyone? – and Nobody but You is just that: a gimmicky romance novel relying more on tried and true stereotypes rather than the author’s effort in making the characters and romance stand out. This may be marketed as noir romance, but open the box and I will still get the same old McDonald’s happy meal.