Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58284-4
Contemporary Romance, 2002
The problem with romance authors writing about movie star heroes and heroines is that they apparently have no idea what makes the movie industry tick. People like Joan Wolf, Mary Jo Putney, and now Emily Carmichael seem to be stuck in some 1940’s glamour fantasy perpetuated by some fangirl denial thing (“Cary Grant is not bisexual, because he is going to marry me!”), unable to step out of that formulaic limbo.
If you ask me, the appeal of the movie world is the sleaze. The sex, the drugs, the fashion disasters, and of course, all those handsome young talentless waiters hoping to play the casting couch to get a role in some daytime soap. Sometimes I wish I’m born in LA, I want to be a casting director. I’ll buy a very big couch in my office.
Emily Carmichael is the latest in the long line of romance authors who seek to moralize and sanitize the movie industry – you know, how movie heroes are bad playboys who move out of LA after finding true love, that sort of thing. Newsflash: nobody cares, at least nobody here; we just want the gratuitous T&A.
But heck, I’m in a good mood. The Good, the Bad, and the Sexy, the moralizing and good woman preach fest notwithstanding, is a pretty fun read, especially for a book featuring a complete killjoy heroine.
Rachel Marsh runs a ranch. Yes dear, no time, no life, no men, nothing, just her and the horses in a chorus line of ennui anthems. Then one day the hunk Jackson Stone stumbles upon her ranch and offers her $4,000 a day if she will let him and his 13-year old bratty daughter stay and work a little. He claims that he’s just researching for a role, but in reality, he just wants a place to lay low with his daughter. Hey, not that way, Jackson is no R Kelly, oh please. What happens is that the stupid girl tries to run away with a much, much older junkie rock star. Now he wants them both to lay low, do some soul-searching and daddy/daughter bonding thing, and get some R&R for himself in the process.
$4,000 a day, huh? If any of you male actors reading this get any ideas, well, my house is always available for you to clean the fridge, do the laundry, and clean the dishes. Simon Baker and Hugh Jackman will get a 40% discount, 50% if it’s a two-for-one special. Any takers?
Yes, Rachel’s a heroine, because see, she’s a rancher, she doesn’t like watching movies, and she’s not a movie star, as opposed to Jackson’s flaky, nitwitted LA wife. Jackson will soon learn the meaning of Wholesome Works, the daughter will be redeemed into Shirley Temple-dom by Rachel’s Harry Potter groupie son.
Rachel does the serious thing a lot, but at least she has a nice sense of humor about it all sometimes. Jackson is a nice hero too, and he and Rachel have some chemistry thing going. Their relationship is not too shabby, filled with banters and all, with some zinger lines thrown liberally around.
But in the end, the whole preachy sweet thing gets to me somewhat. The tabloid reporter who is hounding Jackson ends up writing an autobiography that can drive a fangirl into sugar shock. Our hero leaves LA, bad bad LA and live in the ranch where he somehow juggles a mega movie career and a rodeo star stint. In the end, Jackson is no longer a movie star as much as he is a cowboy first and foremost.