Warner Forever, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61055-0
Contemporary Romance, 2003
If Carly Phillips had done a fat suit, put on crutches, and does her best Tourette Syndrome act in a Barbie sorority meeting, she couldn’t have done a better job in getting herself booed and jeered out of the house the way she did with The Playboy. I’d expect that she’d take the time to polish up her book after more than one person claims that The Bachelor reads like a very bad Harlequin Temptation padded up for mainstream publication. This one does improve towards the end, but the beginning is so awful anything short of a nuclear war would be an improvement.
And it still reads like a very padded series novel.
The story begins with a school teacher calling up the police only to have hot cop Rick Chandler drop by so that she can seduce him. Apparently Rick is so holy-bamami mama-bamama hot hot hot that every woman just has to have him. As a husband, of course – what are you thinking?
His mother is still obsessed with seeing her sons wedded and bedded and if she has to rope in the entire town to do it, she will. Into town zooms Kendall Sutton, still in a wedding gown (because you don’t change out of that dress even after you’ve just broken up with your guy at the altar), penniless (as usual), car broke down… let’s just say there’s a big neon sign over her head and that sign is saying “I left Originality far behind and I never looked back”.
Rick decides to pay her to be his fake girlfriend. He gets this brainwave while he is trying to unbutton her gown (strictly innocent, of course). Some men get very creative when they’re aroused. Rick, frankly, worries me if Silhouette Desire clichés are all he can think of in the heat of the moment. Kendall wants to be independent, but since she has no money to fix up her house (it’s always about the house), yeah, she’ll do this. She’ll play his fake girlfriend, no problem.
Rick’s mother, upon seeing Kendall for the first time, surmises that Kendall is intelligent and compassionate. Then again, the old coot’s senile enough that her sole motivation in life to see her sons wedded.
Kendall and Rick are stock characters with enough superficial bad family sob stories on her part and his, um, his occupation, I think, to commend him. Heaven knows, a cop is all a man needs to be nowadays in a contemporary romance to be a hero. A cop, or a Navy SEAL, that is. Fans of this type of small town stories will see the plot twists, privacy invasions, and Mary Sue machinations coming a zillion miles away.
When things can’t get any more lower, then comes Kendall’s sister, fourteen and described as a hybrid of Britney and Christina. At first I like this sassy lady. If I’m her, I’d steal sis’s car and run away just like she did. Alas, the sister Hannah soon turns into one of those annoying wisecracking precious tykes, weeping tears or acting like a brat just to get Uncle Ricky and Kendall naked. See, this girl also wants to see everyone shagging. This town must be filled with swingers if there is an iota of realism in this story, but I guess romance readers have fragile psyche and need to be protected from terrible things in real life like sex.
When I say things get better, it’s “better” as in the more ridiculous and transparent plot contrivances to get Kendall in Rick’s personal space (and vice versa) are set aside for some genuine attempts at conversation and bonding between these two. Okay, so what comes out from their mouths are more like hackneyed pop “misunderstood old me” stories of woe and even more hackneyed feel good replies to such stories, but at least they are talking, you know. Talking’s good, much better than fake relationships, right?
But the ridiculous matchmaking antics just keep coming. The matchmaking Mommy gets her own man, but the silly old fool just cannot distract her from her nonsense, more the pity. In a less contrived, padded, hackneyed book, Rick and Kendall may be fun – if unoriginal. But the plot and secondary characters of The Playboy are relentless in their contrived actions and machinations, it is as if Ms Phillips had used glow-in-the-dark extra-large wire cables to manipulate her puppets in this story.