Warner Forever, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61400-9
Contemporary Romance, 2004
The problem with gimmick-laden stories like Kimberly Raye’s Sometimes Naughty, Sometimes Nice is that the gimmicks are often more outrageous than useful to the story. The gimmicks (like the Asexual Sex Therapist, Bad Girl Virgin Librarians, and other nonsense created by authors who think they are now creative spirits because they have mastered the art of crackpot contradictions) render the characters into flat, one-dimensional, too ridiculous to be empathized with nitwits and as a result, I can’t care less when they start whining about their problems. It’s like the whole The Rules phenomenon: I feel some sneaky admiration for the creators who went on to make lots of money out of nothing but I find the more ardent believers in that brand of nonsense more cartoonishly pathetic than anything else.
The story in this book is ridiculous. The heroine, Xandra Farrel, is what Ms Raye calls a feminist who wants to teach women the Ultimate Organism while being a cartoonish anti-marriage Nazi in the process. She comes off like some horridly misguided liberal caricature in some right-wing propaganda pamphlet. Which, sometimes, can be understandably confused with a romance novel. Xandra decides to use her first lover, Beau, who was horrible the last time they had sex, as a subject for her experiments. And while we’re at it, Ms Raye decides to insult me some more by having Xandra the supposedly brilliant feminist suffering for biological clock overdrive at the age of twenty-nine (no kidding) and wanting a man to pork her so that she can have a baby. Wow, there’re no sperm banks to cater to ardent feminists in Romance Novel Land?
Beau runs a Hire A Hunk construction company. Remember, everything in this book that isn’t nailed down is a gimmick. He ends up falling for Xandra all over again and for the life of me, I can’t see why. Xandra is shrill, utterly ridiculous in her viewpoints regarding marriage and sex (I wonder, are modern females really that foreign to romance authors that they have to create cartoon characters to depict such women?) and unfortunately, her crackpot philosophy becomes the biggest stumbling block in this relationship. I think I’m supposed to care. However, because Xandra is too unrealistically cartoonish and one-dimensionally wrong (she is redeemed when she learns that Beau is right all along and she naturally embraces marriage and love and, of course, pre-marital sex, which makes us all sigh in relief because all is right in the world again). The only way she can solve her problem where I am concerned is at the business end of a speeding truck.
The subplots are equally ridiculous, starring characters with such devotedly over-the-top nonsensical viewpoints about love and marriage that they may as well come in forms of talking rabbits and screaming ducks. Come to think of it, this book will go down better with me if this is the case.
The sole bright spot of this book is that sometimes, in the few rare scenes that are free from “Sexy Virgin Liberal Biatch Wants to Get Laid and Have a Baby, Huh Huh Huh” contrivances, Beau and Xandra have a pleasant, convincing chemistry between them. For the most part, the author has them and the supporting case of walking Dramamine headcases trying way too hard to be wacky, gimmicky, and outrageous. The result is a farce that is mostly unfunny. This book is often painful, only rarely pleasant, and all out nerve-grating.