LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52497-X
Contemporary Romance, 2002
The cover is a little too red for my liking, but I notice that the guy is actually doing Borticelli’s The Birth of Venus pose on the cover. It’s not that stupid after all, now that I think about it. Like the cover, there is a keen intellect going in the kookiness within the pages of The Last Male Virgin. Even at her most over-the-top, more often than not Ms Deauxville winks at me as she slyly inserts a wry, even cynical sentence or two to let me know that we are all laughing at the same joke.
This is a good thing, because if I suspend my disbelief any more higher, by page 100, you’ll find me hanging lifeless ten feet off the ground from a cord tied to the ceiling.
Peter Havistock is an unusual anthropologist. A plane crash stranded him in the wilderness of Papua New Guinea when he was fourteen, and he was raised by the Antorok tribe until he reconnected with civilization as we know it much later. He introduced his tribe to the twenty-first century, and then wrote a book all about his experiences. It’s called Determining Anthropological and Developmental Social Factors among Papua New Guinea Aborigines of the Antarok Valley, but don’t let that mouthful fool you – it has some pretty spicy sex customs and all inside that book. Can you say “Bestseller”?
Even better, Peter here dresses up in his tribal costumes for authenticity in his lecture circuit. Can we say “penis sheath”?
At first I am pretty uneasy with this story. Something about tribal accessories and customs being made the focus of the American media circus strikes me as… well, not nice. This is especially prevalent in the middle of the story, but eventually I choose to believe that the author knows what she’s doing: she’s making fun of the people’s reaction to Peter, not Peter and his adopted tribe. The author seems well-aware of the zaniness of her story in every other aspect.
Anywhere, here’s where our heroine Leslie Hall-Grumman, daughter of Senator Wimberly and Executive Director of the Wimberly Foundation comes in. The Foundation sponsors academics, scholars, and other geeks and nerds in their quest for success, achievements, et cetera, and Peter has applied for the Foundation’s patronage. Now Leslie has to be this man’s chaperone (I’m sure they have a fancy title for her job). All hell breaks loose when Peter blurts out on Harry King Live that he is still a virgin.
Forget his study on tribes and all – the media goes crazy that our sexy guy here is a virgin who has never experienced an orgasm before (yes, really, he never did that either). Women go crazy and fight over each other to be the first to deflower this guy. Leslie wonders if her entire sex has gone mad.
“I think I’m going to have a brain aneurysm,” I mutter to myself at this point.
Then a strange thing happens. Having set up the stage for her ridiculously implausible story, Ms Deauxville proceeds to have the time of her life, dragging a reluctant me along for the ride. I shock myself by giggling aloud at Leslie’s reaction when she gets a condensed script Hollywood intends to make out of Peter’s book. A ridiculous attempt to save Peter’s virtue lands Leslie in hot water, which only sees her father and allies rallying behind her for the silliest of reasons. Damn, this is stupid but it’s hysterical all the same.
Things get more and more farcical, leading up to a Romancing the Stone-like road trip that is perpetuated by the most “Eh?” of reasons. It’s still a madcap adventure, and it’s even better because the author chooses now to focus on the characters rather than Peter’s virginity or codpiece. Peter turns out to be a pretty charming guy, while Leslie becomes less of a PMS robot. It may be a case of too little too late, but the madcap fun in the earlier parts of the book make up for it as far as I am concerned. Yet Peter pulls a really romantic declaration on Leslie at this stage, which explains some of his actions earlier, and I actually gush at this point.
I admit that this story has its share of misfired jokes – anything to do with codpieces and tribal sexual antics make me want to cringe – but at the same time, this story shows above average brainpower. Peter really knows what he is saying, by the way, and there are enough facts and all that show that Ms Deauxville isn’t just shooting in the dark when she talks about Papua New Guinea tribes. Likewise, some of her observations about human nature are uncanny and even cynical. There is intelligent life form inside the giant kooky codpiece of this story – this story is much better than most of the other try-hard screwball comedies out there in this respect. There’s self-awareness (the good sort) and even self-effacing humor, and the ability to make fun of itself.
Sure, I do wish the author has focused more on developing Leslie and Peter as characters rather than feeding the tabloid frenzy in her story. But in the end, when the author has two tabloids winning the Pulitzer prize, she’s well aware of how ridiculous that is, but at the same time, somehow she has made it such that it isn’t so ridiculous after all. Am I making sense here? The Last Male Virgin, underneath is wacky screwball facade, is actually a brainy and really funny piece of work. Sure, it could be better, but I like it well enough as it is.