Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7614-2
Contemporary Romance, 2005
Kathy Love is tempting fate by having her latest book called Wanting Something More. That or she’s psychic because this is exactly my reaction towards the third book in the Stepp sisters trilogy.
Marty Stepp is the youngest Stepp sister who comes back to the small town of Millbrook after deciding to walk away from her New York modelling career. She seeks shelter at the old house only to realize that she is sharing it with the small town Chief of Police, Nathaniel Peck, during a blinding snowstorm. She and Nate have issues starting with how he kissed her and then humiliated her when they were teenagers, and how subsequent encounters had him behaving like a complete jerk to her. What she doesn’t know at first is that Nate, after surviving a brutal attack from an as-yet unidentified villain, has lost his memories. Because of this, he has no memories of being the shallow jerk and instead he is now the perfect gentleman. Marty, however is determined to think the worst of him. Can love triumph? And do I care?
The jobs of Marty and Nate are just that – window dressing and nothing more. Marty is supposed to be a successful Calvin Klein model but she is a terribly unconvincing one. For one, her previous relationships with men are hopelessly unconvincing (for example, dating a gay man for a year without realizing that he’s gay – and hello, she’s supposed to be a model, working in a gay-dominated industry!) or stereotypical (dated a jerk, boo hoo hoo, all men are bastards, wah wah wah). She is the kind of model who is thin and tall without having to diet or hit the gym. As for Nate, his job as a Chief of Police apparently allows him to stare after Marty all day long like a besotted calf while his underlings have to do actual work and report back to him.
But more importantly, the characters are flat and their chemistry is nonexistent. Marty starts out like a complete twit, constantly judging Nate as some scum even when he’s being nice to her, all the while trumpeting that she is an expert in Men Are Bastards 101 because she is stupid enough to be involved with jerks in the past. Out of the blue after the midpoint of the story, she decides that she wants to sleep with him after all. How did this earth shattering epiphany take place? I don’t know. The author has Marty deciding that she likes Nate the way just like that – snap! – and wham, next thing I know Marty has changed from a one-dimensional prune with a permanent scowl on her face to a twit wondering how she can get the already besotted Nate into her bed. Hello? She’s a skinny and tall white model who actually manages to have breasts (only in romance novels, I tell you) – will it be that hard to get Nate hot and panting? Really, only in romance novels, I tell you. Nate is one-dimensionally nice and sweet with very little depth underneath his gentlemanly façade. The one genuine conflict in this story, not counting Marty’s early annoying assumptions of every nice thing Nate does for her has a hidden agenda on her virtue or pride, is a late misunderstanding that is pretty stupid.
The suspense subplot about the identity of Nate’s attacker is DOA. The villain can be easily guessed (there are two people in this story who aren’t uniformly sweet and kind – no, I’m not counting Marty among these two people – so it’s a tough choice, especially how these two are actually closely linked to each other, ooh). Nate doesn’t seem to care about discovering the attacker as much as he cares about getting Marty to think the best of him so this suspense subplot has no urgency to it. It fades into the background until the author decides that it’s time she pulls out an “exciting” way to wrap up her story.
Now, Kathy Love, tell me again about Wanting Something More.