Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-272-X
Contemporary Romance, 2003
Renegade is supposed to be the last book in the Hideaway series. I wish I can say it goes out with a bang, but while Renegade is much better than this author’s previous few books, the book also suffers from an overdose of perfect-itis. The characters are so perfect that the author has effectively killed any suspense in her story. What makes Renegade much more readable than the author’s previous slow-moving books is that in this book, there is an external conflict driving the story. The characters don’t have time to indulge in perfect-itis to make me want to eat some raw puppies to make myself feel calm, they only make me want to wrap my fingers around the characters’ neck and squeeze really hard.
Summer Montgomery, code-named “Renegade”, is a DEA agent who is always successful in her undercover missions. She is described as so gorgeous that every man stops and stares and falls in love with her. I question the rationale of sending this woman undercover – how is she going to blend in and do those covert stuff when every man sees her and falls for her right away? She joins the DEA to smash drug cartels after her brother was killed in a shootout between drug gangs (wrong place, wrong time, poor guy) and she had to end her Tony-nominated super fabulous Broadway career to do some good instead. She has no fear. She has no insecurities. She can do everything. She looks fabulous. And if the author uses the phrase “perfect body”, “perfect breasts”, heck, if I come across the word “perfect” one more time, I will really have to start eating some puppies, so Ms Alers, you stop it now, you hear? Stop it!
Summer’s latest mission is to go undercover as a drama teacher in a high school in Massachusetts. Weir Memorial High School is notorious for drug-related cases, and it’s up to Summer to do the right thing, end evil, and all. Alas, also at the school is Gabriel Cole, another paragon of perfection. He’s a super musician who’s at the school for some… er, gee, I don’t know. He’s here on a tenure. His music is selling zillions of zillions of zillions of copies. Everybody thinks he’s hot. He’s hot. He’s gorgeous. He’s super gallant. He has so much money, he uses hundred dollar bills as disposable napkins. He lives in a big house.
Needless to say, when Summer and Gabriel get together to make love, the brilliance that shines from the juncture of their conjoined bodies dazzles me so much, as Gabriel’s perfectly-formed absolutely-fertile high-accelerated little spermatozoa surge into Summer’s fecund womb past the perfectly vaulted fallopian tubes, I am moved to tears at the thought of such bee-yoo-ti-fool joining of demigods that I can only pathetically hope to come close to being in maybe a few million years. Suspense? These two can do anything and everything. The villain doesn’t have any hope. The suspense is dead. After all, it doesn’t matter. Summer and Gabriel are so flawless, devoid of imperfections from their perfectly formed face to the perfect curvature of their bum cracks, so perfect that there is no doubt that they cannot fail in anything.
Then there are the rest of the clan. Wow. They aren’t just a regular family. There’s a prominent HIV researcher – I bet by Sunday we will have a cure for it. There are Samaritans on a global crusade to heal the world. Rochelle Alers doesn’t write characters, she writes about bland milquetoast perfect cardboard cut-outs.
The only thing that makes the whole book readable is the fact that the dialogues are enjoyable and the pace is well-balanced throughout the book. The villain is a caricature and the romance will be very familiar if you have read Rochelle Alers’s previous Hideaway books: the guy always propose first and the heroine will put up all sorts of reasons to say no until it’s almost time to go home. Still, I must admit that Summer has a valid excuse to say no to Gabriel’s proposal. She is undercover after all. I mean, okay, so she slept with a man while undercover while claiming to love him and all that, but it’s not okay to marry him. I think. Hmm. Anyway, does it matter? Of course they will marry. Then, at the end of the book, all the characters from this author’s Hideaway books gather at the top of Mount Everest. The light from heaven shines from the sky, our immaculately flawless characters then sprout wings like the angels they are, and everybody floats up towards their heavenly home, leaving us poor flawed mortals to sigh in despair at being deprived of their luminary perfection. That is, until the author’s next book comes along.