Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-264-9
Romantic Suspense, 2002
If a fairy godmother waves her magic wand and Selena Montgomery becomes so good, Suzanne Brockmann will be quaking in her boots as she downs an entire vineyard. Damn if Ms Montgomery can’t do a script, complete with megalomaniac villains, to make a James Bond scriptwriter turn green with envy. Terrorists, intrigue, espionage, ooh.
But oh my head. Her characters spend almost all their waking hour bickering over the smallest matters, and they are so shrill that they can make my eardrums bleed. Bicker, bicker, bicker. Memo to Ms Montgomery: please write adult characters for the next book, thanks.
The plot, I can say, is about secret agent Phillip “Dead/Not Dead/Dead/Not Dead” Thurman (sorry if you don’t get that, it is a Rules of Engagement thing) recuperating from an undercover infiltration of a terrorist cell run by zealots. He meets Alex Walton, a friend of a friend, at the wedding of the main couple of the previous book, and sparks fly. Or supposed to. Someone is trying to Alex, however, and it may be related to some mementos she brought back from a stint as an artist abroad.
Alex is an interesting character. She is a woman who falls in and out of love every week, but she’s not fickle. She’s an artist, see? And to the author’s credit, Alex does think and act like an artist. Meanwhile, Phillip is macho, heroic, and all so gung-ho.
Then comes the childish and shrill bickerings, the circular want/don’t-want push-and-pull, the tedious inability for Alex to commit, and other tiny, annoying irritants that add up to one giant ugly mountain of annoyances. Character development is stillborn, character motivations change according to plot, and I wonder where I can get drunk to blunt the pain at the lowest price in town.
Seriously, if Ms Montgomery had taken more time to create more fully realized characters, Suzanne Brockmann will be quaking in terror. As it is, right now the author is still learning to fly.