LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52403-1
Contemporary Romance, 2000
Unwrapped is as fun as that twenty minutes sitting in the dentist’s, listening to the sound of wet, metallic bzzzzz drilling and thinking of my own upcoming getting-bzzzzzz‘ed. Three contemporary stories featuring three of the more obtuse heroines or couples around Contemporary Romance Land. These people don’t just seem as if they are caricatures right out of Women’s Mag Land, they can pretty well rewrite The Rules to greater levels of inanity.
Rule I: Feel guilty for even thinking of divorcing your overbearing husband who suffocates you, because marriage is sacred. Protect the sanctity of marriage even if it is at the cost of your personality, individuality, and sanity. Claudia Dain’s Every Square Inch is the perfect illustration. Mary wants to divorce her husband David, but halts the proceedings when she hears that David is dead while on some hushed-up Navy duty. Nope, he’s not dead, he’s back, and he’s as overbearing as ever. He humiliates her openly, mocking her for even thinking of divorcing her in front of her neighbors. He wouldn’t allow her to go to the shops alone. He overrides all her decisions, all the while not telling her anything about his life.
In short, he’s a complete jerk.
In the end, they stay married. Mary decides hell, she doesn’t want to know what he does anyway, and besides, everyone keep telling her she should stay married, so here she is! Is everyone happy now?
Pathetic, if I may say so.
Rule II: Let him not call you, let him break all his promises, let him stand you up, and keep waiting for his call even after the fifth time he stands you up. Because he’s a man, he can’t help it, and you know you’re hitting the bitter old age of 30 without a man in your life. Shirl Henke’s Surprise Package is one such story. She waits, waits, waits, waits, waits, waits, waits, until he makes up his mind. They get married, the end. There’s an inside joke about underpaid Leisure romance editors somewhere, but it gets lost in the endless waiting for his phone call.
Rule III: Sex is lobotomy, painful. Never spend shorter than three hours agonizing about committing to an affair. Nina Bangs’s Man with a Golden Bow makes the fantasy of being chased by a sex-mad hunk sounds as fun as being trapped in a room with a chainsaw-wielding masked psycho. The heroine frets: “I’m the oldest virgin in town, and I want to lose it, no I don’t, yes I want to, no I don’t… he’s gorgeous, but too gorgeous for me, I mean, I’d like to lose it to a hunk, but he’s too… hunky! How painful for me, to be chased by such a virile dude! No, please stop, I can’t bear this, nononono…. OH! OH! OHHHHHH! OOOOHHHHH!”
How pitiful. Shall I pull the plug?