LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52619-0
Paranormal Romance, 2005
Maybe Cheryl Sterling is just being a little too carried away by her premise, I don’t know, but for the first 100 pages of this book, the heroine Jane Drysdale suffers from a condition best described as Terminally Incessant Overperkiness. There are sassy, there are perky, and there are outright ridiculous and Jane is in the latter camp. When her car crashes and she falls into unconsciousness after her right front tire blows and she makes things worse by swerving the car to avoid what she thinks is a bunny, she is rescued by some men. She then proceeds to thank these men by insulting their accent and admittedly strange English, telling them that she is not sleeping with them in order to repay them (and no, these men never even bring up sex), and acting like a complete tool because they won’t let her recover her toys in the backseat (the car explodes like the men predict, mind you). They take her to this strange place, where Jane, instead of exhibiting fear, curiosity, or anything else that a sane human being would do, just keeps sprouting wisecracks, insults, and one-liners.
The plot of this book is that Jane is rescued by elves and she is brought back to their secret kingdom of sorts, where she is put on trial for the death of the “bunny” (which turns out to be an elf). This is how she meets the elfin lawyer Charlie which the author describes as akin to Legolas. How nice, so in addition of being stuck with a heroine who just cannot shut up, I have to face a milquetoast girly-boy hero as well. Jane learns that she has powers, blah blah blah, destiny, love, ooh, but really, Jane just can’t and won’t shut up. A realistic heroine would actually stop to examine her surroundings and exhibit some curiosity, fear, or at least trepidation at being stuck in a strange land. But Jane treats the whole story like her personal stand-up platform for the author to inflict her secret “I Am a Hawt Stand-Up Comedian” fantasies on her readers. Needless to say, Jane doesn’t come off like any realistic character as much as an incessant annoyance, like a slightly more lucid Katie MacAlister heroine.
Jane finally mellows down (the dart the elves spike her with in the beginning must have contained some slow-acting mood stabilizers) but her action rarely improves from that of a silly child on a crazy rampage through a toy store. The problem here is that Ms Sterling really cannot stop acting like she’s more keen on showing off her wit than actually telling a story. While Jane is an immature, childish twit who can’t see the obvious to save her life, however, the elves come off like simplistic one-dimensional children who just happen to give good sex. Charlie’s thoughts are so linear at times that he seems to only see the things before him, like the trees instead of the forest. The internal conflict boils down to predictable “I’ll drive her away because I know we aren’t meant to be (but of course, I’ll shag her first because I’m so freaking noble like that)” banality. There are some attempts to flesh out Jane’s family background but all in all, the author would have done better if she tones down her hyperactive yuk-yuk-yuk “humor” in the story, simmers down, and stays mellow long enough to allow her characters to develop a little into something more than one-dimensional “elf hero” and “yet another stupid heroine”.
Also, the author often relies too much on the idea of sex being naughty and something we genteel pure readers will howl in guilty laughter at when it comes to delivering the ha-ha-ha’s. Ooh, Jane sells sex toys! And these sex toys are used as magical boosts in elven fertility festivals! But of course Jane doesn’t actually use any of these toys on herself (that will break the pure and only slightly naughty image of the heroine and send us God-fearing readers into paralysis) and the sex scenes are as tame as a Sunday school guide to bedroom instructions.
What Do You Say to a Naked Elf? has too much of the author running wild with her self-indulgent vicarious living through her heroine, often at the expense of the story, and too little of an actual story. I know the author is excited to be making a paranormal debut and I really wish her longevity and success in her career, but for her next book, I’d really appreciate seeing less of her taking over her characters like some poltergeists hell-bent on possession and getting to know her characters better in the process.