Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-701-2
Contemporary Romance, 2006
The couple on the cover of Elaine Overton’s Promises of the Heart are very attractive indeed but given that the heroine Callie Tyler is somewhat short and well-rounded, I have no idea whom that woman on the cover is supposed to represent.
At any rate, I think I like what Ms Overton is trying to do with her stories. Every book of hers so far features a heroine who is smart and sensible and this book is no different. Callie is a well-grounded heroine. She’s also a mechanic who can be counted on to fix any car until it looks shiny and new all over again. Callie can be a tomboy that way, but she is also a darling among her crossdressing buddy Pooky and his buddies as they take care of her after her estrangement from her stepbrother since the death of her father.
The problem here is that the plot relies on a few really unbelievable coincidences which prevents this book from truly taking off the ground. You see, one early morning at about 2:00 am, Callie is on the road in a particularly seedy and unsafe neighborhood to pick up Pooky after his night out. Her car ends up crashing into our hero Julian Cruise’s Corvette. When Pooky runs off to look for a public phone to call for help, Callie tries to resuscitate Julian, only to overhear a murder taking place nearby. A murder which happens to be linked to Callie’s stepbrother, mind you.
Julian wants to sue Callie because he’s dubbed a ruthless businessman and one of the best in Detroit for a reason. However, his trusted mechanic Sam is unable to fix his Corvette and tells him to send it to one of his apprentices instead. I’m sure you can guess whom this apprentice is. Julian ends up agreeing to call off the lawsuit if Callie will fix up Baby nice and dandy, and Callie knows she’s good for the job. However, he also decides to ask Callie out for a date and that is one thing she is not sure about.
The murder thing conveniently fades into the background until Ms Overton remembers to bring it up again to spice up the story much later, which I find hard to believe. I mean, will anyone happily forget that they overhear a man pleading for his life and a gun going off to the point that they don’t even discuss it with each other? This and the pile-on of coincidences in this story can be really distracting.
Also, the head-hopping in this book is crazy, especially in the first quarter of the story. Ms Overton has done this in her previous books, but she loses control of herself here. The narration can easily switch without warning from the point of view of one character to another, which can make things confusing indeed when there are two men or two women in the same scene.
It is a pity, therefore, that this is Elaine Overton’s weakest book to date from a technical standpoint because Callie and Julian are easily her most well-drawn characters to date. These two are really fun to read about as they complement each other beautifully. It helps that Callie is smart enough that she can often put two and two together. She has a very normal attitude about dating. Likewise, Julian may from all aspects a rather stereotypical “ruthless millionaire finds his heart thawed by an unconventional heroine” type of hero but he is also nicely normal in many regards. He has a kid, but the mother of his kid is not some cartoon evil creature. Likewise, he may date the kind of women he usually dated in the past, but these women are portrayed in a non-judgmental manner as women who just happen to have no time for marriage and kids. Julian is free of misogyny or Mommy issues.
The only downside is that some of the secondary characters here can be too perfect that they should come with halo and wings. Nonetheless, Julian and Callie are more than enough to make this story a grand fun to read despite its many flaws.