Harper, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-059875-4
Contemporary Romance, 2009 (Reissue)
Oh, don’t worry. The Grand Finale isn’t the last book in the Stephanie Plum series, so be rest assured that Stephanie, Ranger, and Joe are still permanently stuck in the lowest levels of hell, never to be free because the world as we know it will end should Stephanie pick a guy, cause fans of the other guy to go berserk and destroy the Internet, and poor Janet Evanovich won’t be able to buy herself some new shoes this Christmas. No, this is actually a reissue of one of the handful of books the author did for Bantam’s now-dead Loveswept line as warm up – first published in 1988, this is actually the first of those Loveswept titles. It is also the weakest of the lot, not that this is any excuse considering that the author had written some titles for another line before this one.
Berry Knudsen runs a pizza parlor but as of late, she is forced to make deliveries. You see, she spent most of her money buying the Pizza Place from the previous owner, so she’s not exactly neck deep in funds. But she naturally hires three old ladies just because she found them sleeping in the bus stop, and now they have taken over the kitchen. Hence, Berry Knucklehead is now the delivery mule. She drives a rotten old metal coffin, so to speak.
It all happens when she makes a delivery to wealthy Jake Sawyer, inventor turned school teacher, and she pauses to rescue a cat on a tree. She has such a good time talking to the cat that she almost overlooks the fact that she can look right into Jake’s bedroom from that branch. Oh, there’s Jake. Cute. He takes off his shirt? Cuter. Oh, he’s taking off his pants to read naked in bed? Hot. A part of me wonders why he would be stripping off to read naked in bed when he’s expecting someone to send over the pizza. Maybe he’s seen too many pornographic films and he believes that he’d get a happy ending of all happy endings when the pizza boy knocks on the door and he hollers, “Come upstairs to my room…”?
I will never know, because the branch snaps and Berry goes down. When she comes to, Jake is clothed and the pizza is squished, but things aren’t so bad. Berry can still retreat, dignity bruised but not damaged permanently… when the metal coffin of hers decides to send itself down and over a cliff. Never mind, eventually Jake decides to deliver pizzas for her in his classic custom put-together car, and it gets stolen. And on and on the tomfoolery goes.
Reading The Grand Finale, it’s pretty obvious that the author is a hundred times better at writing comedy than she is at writing romance. This story is basically the author’s comedy routine on steroids. The physical comedy just keeps coming, so much so that the romance seems to be just there to fill the quiet moments between ha-ha moments. There are three old ladies here, so yes. if you are familiar with the author’s style, that style is laid very thick here. There are some funny moments here and there, but the sad thing is, once I’ve read a few of the author’s books, her brand of slapstick humor starts to become predictable.
Compared to the author’s later Loveswept titles, which also follow the same formula and have better comedy than romance, The Grand Finale however suffers from an overdose of feminine stupidity passed off as cute. No money, now no car, and yet, Berry still bends over backwards to accommodate old ladies and other pushy creatures without any regards whatsoever about her own welfare – aw, ain’t she sweet. She seems to have the mental maturity of a ten-year old girl at times, such as how she can’t imagine why the hero just can’t buy spare parts and put his car together again instead of acting all torn up. I don’t follow cars but even I know that classic cars are often one of their kind, sheesh. Jake often has to explain things to her like she’s one of his students, helps her out because clearly she can’t be counted on to help herself out of self-inflicted calamities, and his relationship with her has this discomfiting patronizing “Aw, you’re so stupid, little girl, but you’re so cute and you clearly can’t help being such a bimbo, so come over here and sit on Daddy’s traffic cone!” feel to it.
Anyway, if you’re a collector who found the original edition of this book, or you just can’t get enough of the author’s brand of comedy, you are certainly welcome to The Grand Finale. But if you’re tired of wacky old broads, stupid women going all sassy and earnest while being the ditz from hell, and the patient men who adore these women, you’ve best watch your step around this one.