St Martin’s Griffin, $13.95, ISBN 0-312-33178-9
Contemporary Romance, 2004
At the surface, Brenda Jackson’s The Playa’s Handbook seems like an amusing answer to all those “lad lit” books where boys are allowed to indulge in childish nonsense and still get their women, although only a psychiatrist will know what these women see in those spoiled brats pretending to be men. In this story, childish men aim to break hearts of women for various insipid reasons only to fall victim to love. Unfortunately, Ms Jackson seems determined to out-Madaris herself in this book, packing the story with so many concurrent subplots to the point that most of the characters remain superficial, one-dimensional even. Oh, and a sequel is in the works, so any reader who are not aware of this and are taken aback by how this book ends abruptly may feel manipulated.
After two lousy marriages – it must be the women’s fault, of course, even if the common denominator in those two marriages is the man himself – Dr Lance “I Bought My Doctorate From the Internet” Montgomery publishes The Playa’s Handbook, a tome for aspiring Romeos that offers advice like: “A woman can’t use you if you use her first.” For some reason, this book becomes a hot water-cooler topic of discussion as men adore the book and women hate on it.
Proving that idiots of a degenerate brain cell stick together like stinky stale sweat on a jockstrap, Lance’s best buddies decide to get some easy booty using the advice in the book.
Samuel Gunn is a bitter divorcée who feels that the only way he can reinstate his manhood is by shagging as many hot women as he can. Of course, he finds himself falling for the more “virtuous” neighbor Falon. Phillip McKenna is happy to have sex with his ex-wife until she ends their “ex”tra-curricular activities. He decides to spend time with her daughter and pick up single mothers at his daughter’s school. Ms Jackson, I think Mr Hornsby is on the phone requesting a nice long talk about sharing of the ide. Anyway, Terri is the woman for Phillip.
Meanwhile, Marcus Lowery decides to stop grieving over his late wife by signing up online for orgies. I’m sure the late Dottie approves of his need to drown his sorrows like this. Marcus is having a comfy shag session with his neighbor Naomi but now he wants more women, more, more, more. In the tradition of Men, You Must Love a Virtuous Woman stories, Marcus ends up sleeping with Naomi in his orgy debut and starts having feelings for Naomi. Meanwhile, the sexually adventurous skank turns out to be eeeeeeee-vil.
And finally, Dr Lance “Yup, I’m Shocked as Much as You That I Graduated High School” Montgomery decides to vanquish his nemesis Asia Fowler, whose relationship advice goes against his own doctrine, to prove that a penis speckled with suspicious sores is superior to a discriminate booty. Asia, unfortunately, is a stereotypical romance novel relationship therapist in the sense that she has the obligatory vow of chastity thing going for her and she lacks the willpower to stand up to Lance as much as she should because he is so, so hot. Lance humiliates Asia in this book – the resolution of this relationship will be wrapped up in a sequel that will also involve some of the secondary casts in this book – but it’s like watching a five-hundred pound sumo wrestler squashing a fly by throwing his bulk over the floor. Asia is just no match for Lance so there is no fun of watching two equal players sparring enthusiastically. It’s just a matter of when Asia gets played and when Lance magnanimously repents and comes back to her.
With so many storylines running that involve the main players and their secondary hangers-on, The Playa’s Handbook offers only a rushed cursory introduction to the main players. Ironically then, this is a handbook in every sense of the word as opposed to being a novel that offers intimate glimpses into the main players’ heads. I don’t have the opportunity to form anything more than cursory detachment to the many storylines going on here. And since these are stale, formulaic “Good women trump sluts in winning the love of a male-slut!” storylines, complete with cheesy double-standards on male and female sexual behaviors, I often have a hard time even forming that cursory detachment.
Judicious trimming of cast and more effort into fleshing out the main storylines would have done amazing wonders for this book. As it is, this one just feels played out.