Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7342-9
Contemporary Romance, 2004
I’m sure readers of contemporary romances are cognizant by now of several established prime evils and roots of all decay in society. Fame and money are evil – or rather, whining about fame and money being evil is the way to be in these books. All this won’t be a big deal if the author doesn’t choose to make this a big deal in Perfect Switch, even if it means that the momentum of this book will crash into a grinding halt midway into the story and never recover.
Meredith Madison is the twin sister of Marley the famous TV star. Marley is the one that takes after the mother. Meredith is reduced to eating Hamburger Helper dinners with her father while the Glamorous Madison Ladies are off to do their mom-daughter thing. Recently, Marley learned the lesson that fame and money isn’t everything, and married her man (who is naturally rich and famous, because the Fame and Money Rules only apply to women in Romance Novel Land). Meredith is left to babysit Marley’s house. Fed up with being the forgotten sister, Meredith figures that it won’t hurt for her to become her twin sister and accept what seems like a vacation package offered to Marley.
To her surprise, she realizes that she’s instead signed up to become an instructor in Tony Valentine’s fantasy acting camp, where participants are taught on how to be a star in courses like “Tabloid Tattling” and “Diva Dramatics”. Meredith finally blabs to Tony about the switcheroo, but he needs her to pretend to be Marley because the money from this camp is urgently needed to save Valentine Studios from going the way of MGM. Fish out of water antics and love ensue.
Like the previous related book Perfect Together, logic is on leave in Perfect Switch. Tony, who is supposedly a savvy businessman (hey, he runs an imaginary “cutting-edge” dot-com business after all), can actually be oblivious to the fact that Marley Madison has recently got hitched in a very public courtship and is now on her honeymoon. Instead of courting investors from Japan, he’s banking his hopes on an absurd “camp” that teaches people an “acting” course that has no actual resemblance to the entertainment business in general. I am expect to believe that Meredith, who intends to pass herself off as Marley, will not even bother to shave her legs or nick a few of her sister’s fancy clothes for the getaway. This is a total imbecile who just stands there, blinks, and acts panicky when she realizes that she has done no homework or even mental preparation to be Marley only after she’s knee-deep in the masquerade. I guess the author expects me to giggle at Meredith’s brain-free uselessness because such behavior is so cute or something.
Am I the only one becoming irritated by the increasing number of contemporary comedies that see fit to abandon all pretenses of logic whatsoever? Comedy is not the same as absurdity, is it? Please don’t tell me that just because a book is supposed to be funny the author is not to be hold accountable when it comes to plotting that actually makes sense?
Still, the absurd premise won’t be a big deal if the story doesn’t drag so badly. Meredith is a nitwit and her self-effacing me-me-me act is really tedious but her ditzy antics manage to get a chuckle or two out of me. Tony’s intelligence is vastly overrated by the author but he has his moments too. But the author attempts to provide depths to her characters (which she probably shouldn’t have bothered with, given her careless attention to logic in this story), and she does this by having the characters indulge in long and circular internal monologues incessantly.
After the initial moments of comedy, the story settles into a tedious whine fest where the characters spend their time overly analyzing their own or the other person’s words and actions and the trials of being Famous and Rich. Spare me. No, just give me their Fame and Money if that means these people will clam up on their psychobabble. The one-liners become more sporadic, the characters keep repeating themselves in their “thinking out loud” moments, and I really begin to understand what Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth feels when he takes a wrong turn on the road and ends up in the land of the Doldrums.
Ms Plumley doesn’t seem to have the art of varying her characters’ internal monologues down pat yet and frankly this book would be so much better if a hundred or so pages are cut out from the bog that is the tedious sagging middle. Only then can it probably be called an absurd attempt at comedy. As it is, Perfect Switch is just a tedious bore.