Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1993-7
Contemporary Romance, 2002
Let Millie Criswell demonstrate the fine art of a train wreck caused by self-indulgence gone tectonic haywire. If there is a romance in The Trials of Angela, it is completely lost, drowned under the morass of unfunny Italian-Jewish caricatures and old people behaving in appallingly bad manners (I think this is supposed to be “funny”). Reading this book is like listening to a drunk, rambling stand-up comedienne committing career suicide on stage.
And the worst thing is, Ms Criswell’s bad-non-comedy diarrhea is recycled from better sources. The lawyer jokes prefacing each chapter can easily be found in any third-rate joke site all over the World Wide Web. The joke that is the relentless matchmaking, wisecracking Geriatol Cokecuna Brigade is monotonous and reeks of wannabe-isms that suggests that Ms Criswell may be trying to hard to be the new Janet Evanovich. The cussing and gangster-like Italian-Jewish men are fresh from the reject bins of a castrated episode of The Sopranos. The heroine’s kooky lawyer antics are done to death already on Ally McBeal. The “I hate all women, all women are bitches!” antics of the hero? Don’t get me started.
Angela is pregnant. Her cheating no-good, not-Jewish/Italian boyfriend dumps her for a girlfriend he claims to be his English true love, and like a good Catholic gal who just happens to have, uh, a little biiiiiit of the sexy, she decides to be a single mother. Meanwhile, her path crosses with John Franco in this inbreeding community of Jewish/Italian crackpot suburbia, and since they have a crush on each other for years (Plot Device #4,245 on how to avoid pesky nuisances like developing a relationship in a romance novel), they spark. But they are facing each other in a custody suit between Bitch Slut Mother and Tragic Wronged Man (after all, women are always bitches, never the men, you know), so how?
How? Well, this romance could have been finished in under 100 pages. But this author goes positively berserk like a sociopathic kid unleashed in a candy store with her characters. There seems to be a zillion old ladies and young women and handsome studs here – all Italian/Jewish of course – bent on matchmaking, stealing stuff (old ladies, of course), laying curses on people (old ladies again), talking about babies (women, who have obviously no life and nothing better to do), talking about shoes and penis sizes (again, women), not-too-subtly pushing our two characters together (again, women, women, women – OH GO GET LAID!), and filling the pages with painfully obvious and contrived “funny” scenes. Old ladies cussing, old ladies hexing, kleptomaniac old ladies, old ladies calling cops Nazis, old ladies grilling our heroine on her sex life, old ladies with penises (that’s Angela’s daddy, by the way), knickers-challenged ladies (that’s… oh, don’t ask)…
Angela and John have no quiet time together, except for the love scenes somewhere around page 270 – at least, I hope they are alone, I was too exhausted to read too carefully to check if the entire congregation of psychotically nosy and kooky neighborhood is squashed under the bed where John and Angela are romping – and they don’t even have any character development. The author is just too intent on bringing in the nutjob antics of John and Angela’s friends, families, and dogs. And she keeps coming and coming and coming and coming and coming with those over-the-top scenes, it’s beyond excruciating.
Cacophony doesn’t come close to describing the mess that is The Trials of Angela. Screw that dingbat Angela’s trials, what about mine? Any more longer of this book and I’ll be jumping off the top of a window ledge. Damn, this book should come with a do-it-yourself euthanasia kit.