Onyx, $6.50, ISBN 0-451-41048-3
Contemporary Romance, 2002
Jill Winters’s romance debut Plum Girl is a city gal romance. No small town nonsense, yay. But the heroine Lonnie Kelley is as shallow as a puddle, and reading her agonizing over her old boyfriend Terry or her new one Dominick for 372 pages is a trial in endurance and fortitude. It also doesn’t help that the author does some clumsy backtracking in her story that I can practically see skid marks all over the pages.
For example, Lonnie Kelley says that she’s an outgoing kinda gal involved in a semi-serious relationship with a stand-up comic, Terry. Then she backtracks and says that she has never slept with Terry (no doubt they sit together and watch Will and Grace, perhaps, on the couch) and she has only been physical with one guy, and that was in college. Maybe Ms Winters read some Harlequin Temptation and did some frantic CPR on her story to make it “sell” better.
Lonnie works as a temp in a law firm in Boston, Twit and Bell. Very subtle, that Ms Winters. I almost missed that one. She has the hots for the nerd computer dude who works at the same building, Dominick, and she is soon wrapping her legs around him and necking – right before discovering Mr Twit’s body or maybe it was Mr Bell’s body (don’t worry – inconsequential plot thing, I hardly noticed it throughout the whole story). That’s it for plot. On the whole, this book is nothing more than Lonnie blabbing on and on and on about why she just can’t – can’t! – choose between Terry and Dom. I don’t see what’s the big deal. She’s sleeping with Dom but not Terry, and it’s not as if she and Terry have anything concrete signed in blood. But Lonnie just goes on and on and on. When she’s not whining and using her sister Peach as her punching bag, she is introducing her friends and enemies in scenes that seem more like a boring slide show of one’s neighbor’s vacation than anything witty. These scenes are basically a variation of the common theme: “Meet Mr X – he’s ugly and has a big butt, hahahaha! Meet Ms X – skanky and bossy, meow! Meet my good friend, Y, Y’s my bestest friend ever!”, repeat and rinse.
The humor is as subtle as fat and blonde jokes – blink and you can’t miss it, because Ms Winters will make sure that you get the full description of Lunther Bell’s huge bare buttocks. But that’s not too bad, really, if characterization isn’t so meager it makes undernourishment look good. Lonnie’s all bad one-liners and neurotic women’s-mag insecurities, but her tics and insecurities are introduced and forgotten as if Ms Winters is reading aloud from a shopping list (“Hates mommy. Tick. Bad boyfriends. Tick.”). Dominick and Terry? What they even see in her, I don’t know. Dom’s and Lonnie’s relationship are mostly small miscommunications and bad second-guessing of each other, and it’s as fun as it sounds.
In fact, the whole impression I get from the devastatingly effective sleep-inducing Plum Girl is that it is as if I’m reading a women’s fashion magazine, only this magazine is bloated and magnified ten times over, because you know when Lonnie, no doubt gorgeous and curvy and reed-thin at the same time, claims to have no dates and all, it’s time to just succumb and let the bulimia comes a-calling. Lonnie’s dilemmas and problems are basically much ado about nothing, and spending close to 400 pages listening to her whine and dither is simply too much. If anything, this book just drives home the whole shallow artifice of pretty people dating and then complaining that life isn’t fair to them because they imagine they have cellulite on their impossibly perfect thighs. I’m tempted to ask them to just jump off the ledge and end the whole nonsense.