Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-000723-0
Contemporary Romance, 2003
In a time when it seems as if every other out there is trying to be as politically correct as possible, I must commend Karen Kendall for calling lesbian lifestyle a form of “perversion”, making fun of foreigners staying in New York (insane, loud, nasty, and ooh, ain’t their accent funny?), depicting loud music as satanic, and portraying feminists as naked insane people huddling in a room while listening to “satanic” music. And all this – except for the naked huddlers part – occurs within the first fifty pages!
The Big Apple setting is probably an attempt by the author to recreate those old black and white movies every romance readers must enjoy (or lose their membership card forever). Unfortunately, the author has this impression that a hopelessly inept and giddy-headed heroine being saved and pampered by a misogynistic hero is “old fashioned romantic”. I like it better when the author is writing a crackpot screwball romantic comedy for Ann Coulter fans, hence my disappointment when the potentially flammable stuff peters out by the second half to make way for nonsensical screwball behavior instead. At least getting offended or being amused means I’m actually feeling something, and that’s better than the numbing boredom I feel during the book’s more wackier moments.
Our lesbianism-disapproving, loud music hating, foreigners-oppressed heroine Lavender “Vinnie” Hart hails from a backward town. Her brother is some sort of genius, so she’s now in Now York hoping to work and cough up the dough to pay for her brother’s education in a fancy institution. Vinnie’s aspirations for Republican elitism will have to wait though when it’s obvious that she not only lacks the degree but also the mental capacity to hold on to a job for more than a day. I guess she can also sell her kidney and liver or something, but no. After being fired by a funny furriner employer, she tries out to be hero Nicholas Wright’s dog nanny. How lucky for her that she’s good with the dog.
Nick is a very rich architect. He hates clingy women. He likes women that he can sleep with and then walk away from, only he thinks that those women are unlikable, but he likes the sex – oh what the heck, he’s just a confused misogynist and Karen Kendall wants y’all to know that all career women (except romance authors, naturally) are money-hungry mercenary bitches. Watch and sigh as ditzy klutz Vinnie “redeems” Nick into realizing that small town virtuous cows make the best wives, even if the cow in question is as dumb as a doorknob.
The dog Daffodil is actually the dog of Nick’s aunt, Edna, a wacky woman who has the grace to die at the start of the book before she annoys me any more. Edna, though, is different from the rest of the dotty dingbat squad in that the author strongly suggests that Edna committed suicide instead of slowly succumbing to her wasting illness. Still, whatever annoying matchmaking antics that Edna may bring to this book should she lives, well, her spirit lives on in Daffodil.
But once Nick decides to want Vinnie and Vinnie starts going “Ohmigod, ohmigod, SEX, eeuw, OW, EEUW!” as if sex is the worst thing ever and she’s going hysterical, the author decides to rack up the nutcase quotient of her story. Nick’s career woman ho, Dana, decides to plot on doing away with Daffodil and kicking Vinnie away. Vinnie’s roommate starts playing “satanic music” and inviting naked women to group chant in the room they share. When the author should be concentrating on developing her characters, she instead tries too hard to be funny. Talk about misplaced priorities.
Nick is the only character that works, although Vinnie’s brother Adam is also a likeable (and sympathetic) character. Nick’s epiphany in the late quarter of the book is heartbreaking and even beautiful at places, and I am surprised when I realize that I’m actually tearing up at one very manipulative scene. Vinnie, seen through his eyes, becomes a tolerable character as I get to see why he comes to love her. When Vinnie is described through Nick’s eyes, she’s a different woman than that Vinnie that crashes around in a morass of inept behavior for most of the book. I hope his illusions about Vinnie lasts as long as they could.
I have hammered this author’s books in the past, but Someone Like Him, through Nick, demonstrates that should she put her mind to it, Karen Kendall can actually write a very good story one of these days. Well, good luck to her and I hope that the day will come soon. In the meantime, this is one of the better books the author has come out with, but it still misses more than it hits. A few generous points are thrown in for an interesting banana-sex scene (don’t ask) on pages 218 and 219.