Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-12979-8
Contemporary Romance, 2000
Third Time Lucky is author Claire Cross’s entry in the already saturated funny contemporary market. She also writes as Claire Delacroix, by the way. As far as I’m concerned, Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips need not worry: Third Time Lucky earns its strike from me because its writing style is one I find laborious and difficult to read.
I was drunk on the night it happened.
But then again, that’s not really true. It wasn’t so much beginning as continuing, though I didn’t immediately get that part.
As far as whether this whole mess should have ended already, or whether it should even have begun in the first place, well, that’s an entirely different issue. I’m sure my mother has an opinion about it, and I’m equally sure it’s not one that I want to hear. You’re welcome to ask her, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Beginning or continuing, though, there was no doubt that I was pickle-dee-dee. I had the world on a leash – one of those pink rhinestone-studded specials that even poodles find embarrassing – but I had felt that way even before Veuve Clicquot and I made our acquaintance. A critical distinction, even if it was a bit blurred in that moment.
This is the first four paragraphs of Chapter 1, and already I feel as if I’ve spent months listening to a drunk, chronic short-attention-spanned loony bin rambling about everything and anything. Every time the narrator Phillipa Coxwell makes a statement, she has to add in “but”, “however”, “still”, “therefore”, “and” and make the sentence long, running all over, and sometimes even self-contradictory. A chapter is bad enough, but an entire book? No thanks. I don’t understand a thing that is said in the four paragraphs above, and it’s supposed to be the opening text to grab me into the story.
That is strike one.
Strike two, the plot, with loopholes – oops, I told myself I shouldn’t talk about loopholes, which is supposed to be this author’s charm if her fans are right. Okay, strike two, the plot which is something that defeats even Susan Elizabeth Phillips on a bad day (Nobody’s Baby but Mine with its genius physicist woman pretending to be a prostitute to get a stupid baby to defeat her biological clock, that one is an all-time-low… until now).
It’s about this man called Nick who has traveled all over the world. He is so afraid of committing that he never lets anyone get close to him. (Sounds like that Tuxedo Rose fellow from the irritating cartoon Sailormoon.) Phillipa or Phil has been carrying a torch for him for years. Aah. Surreal.
Then Nick’s Aunt Lucia decides to teach Nick a lesson by faking her own death. I’m not joking. Nick discovers her “death” and flees to Phil, where they both spend their time kissy-wissy all over while trying to figure out what happened to Lucia. All the while they thought her dead, no one discovers the dead body, no cops are called… oh, sorry, I’m harping about loopholes again. My apologies. Loopholes are the charm, I’ll remember that.
Third Time Lucky tries to present a surreal, psychedelic version of love. It has the set-up right: a romantically determined loner, a daydreamer heroine. Only to lose the plot completely with a plot that’s zoned-out and humor that comes off not only unfunny but pretentious as well. There’s no substance to it: the characters, the plot, the dialogues are all too glib and insubstantial to be effective, and the running-all-over rambling writing style doesn’t help. At times I have to put the book down and take a deep breath, for following Phil’s narration leaves me breathless. This woman just talk and talk, going off on irrelevant tangents all over the place, from supposedly cute yaks about poodles all over to indecisive ramblings about love – gosh, I’m now sounding just like her, doesn’t she ever take a deep breath and – HOLD IT!
I think I better move on to the next book. The long-windedness of the heroine seems to be catching. I’ll just say this: Third Time Lucky has the potential to be zany, whimsical, and completely ocean blue in its wacky views of love. But the execution falls short of its potential. What a waste, really.