Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23593-6
Romantic Suspense, 2000
Historical romance author Constance Laux decides to try her hands breaking the contemporary romp market. Well, to an extent, Reinventing Romeo succeeds. It is the rare book in quite a while that has me laughing out really loud in a bus, startling everyone else around me. It’s funny, it’s lighthearted, but well, it’s also pretty much unsatisfying when it comes to being substantial.
Alex Romero is a fabulous, superstud, super-duper rich socialite who finds himself at the hitlist of a bounty hunter when he decides to be a key witness in some intrigue involving everything from drugs to some fictitious male Aung San Suu Kyi-like freedom figure. But when Alex’s witness protection program involves a massive, massive downscaling from champagne and yachting to suburban laundromats, he decides he’s in some sort of hell-on-earth. Luckily, his bodyguard Kate Ellison of the FBI makes up for the indignity of queuing up to do his laundry or to deal with some buffoon neighbors.
For the first half, I’m too busy having fun. Kate and Alex are like, I don’t know, Remington Steele redux, and both give back as good as the other dishes out. The verbal repartees are fun, and the scene of Kate’s bingo fever almost make me burst a rib laughing.
Then the author has them kiss, ie take the relationship further, and things go downhill. Go back, go back, I want the bantering partners-in-crime back! It’s not fun anymore when both start lusting after each other, because what little subtle but fun sexual tension has then evaporated. There’s a good reason why the final we-are-married season of Remington Steele sucked bad – there’s no fun after the two antagonists succumb to the hormonal warcry.
The one-note joke of Alex’s culture shock as he tries to adapt to life in suburbia also starts to wear out on me when Alex starts doing stupid things that jeopardize both he and Kate. Really, really, really stupid things done because he’s an arrogant putz. His character is also inconsistent. Everytime he is taken to task for almost or actually blowing their location open, he thinks, yes, he’s wrong, but at the next chapter, he’s back to being a putz again.
At the end, when he finally admits that he is the one to be blamed for coming this close to jettisoning the whole case, I shake my head. If he knows all along, then why on earth he doesn’t just tell Kate of his secret agendas? It’s sad. So many times he thinks about how he almost got her killed, etc, only to repeat the cycle – Alex never comes off more than a spoiled, pouting brat who wants things to go his way or else.
And the neighbors! They are funny at first, but soon their presence starts to grate, because they are so clueless.
But the biggest flaw here is that I am never convinced that Alex and Kate are actually meant for each other. Kate is a capable heroine who does as best as she could to be professional, but her attraction to him seems to be 90% lust and 10% admiration for his championing of some freedom fighters in some distant land. He kisses her and feels this something from her (I sincerely hope not – oh, you mean love?), and she’s the one. Oh? Since when? Kate and Alex are always either sparring or pawing each other. There are so few, if any, quiet moments where they even try to know each other better.
Still, for pure entertainment (even if the romance is pretty lightweight), Reinventing Romeo is on the right track. I had fun, but it’s just that I can’t remember what the fuss is all about after I close the book.