Exposure
by Susan Andersen, contemporary (1999, 1996 reissue)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6403-9


This book has potential, but well... is this the author's first book? It reads like one. It tries too hard to put in so many things but ends up only halfway there.

Emma Sands and her three-year old daughter Gracie are fleeing a control freak loonybin and end up in idyllic fishing village Port Flannery. Here she confronts the local cheatin' scum mechanic only to catch the eye of local hunk and sheriff Elvis Donnelly who has some hang-ups about this scar on his face. But their impeding wedding nuptials is marred somewhat by the men on Emma's trail.

The story isn't anything new, covered in a million other so-called women's romantic suspense in the market. Unfortunately, Exposure doesn't stand out either. For one, the author seems to be setting up the stage for a sequel or two because she takes the pain to flesh out everyone's past, from the cheatin' mechanic (incidentally, the only nasty guy in an otherwise 100% perfect WASP-populated Port Flannery) to Emma's new friends, only to abandon these subplots halfway and in a haphazard manner too. The dialogs almost sparkle, if not for Emma's annoying tendency to drop chere, cherie, and similar terms of endearments throughout her conversations. Honey, I know you're Cajun, but let's not hit me in the head with a jackhammer over that, okay?

And when there are four or five people in the same scene, boy, the head hopping really gets confusing. One paragraph I am reading about Emma's thoughts then... I happen to blink an eye... and what's that? I've to reread it again to realize somehow I've jumped into Sam's head instead. I feel like a schizophrenic mind-reader after a while.

Elvis is a decent hero when he's not forcing himself into contrived misunderstanding situations with Emma. Emma, in the grand tradition of Great Independent Heroines, won't tell Elvis of the danger she's in, never mind that she trusts him and he's a cop. Someone has to make sure that's a grand Rescue finale, after all.

And don't get me started about Gracie. She's three and she has a lisp. But any more "I'm twee! Gracie wanna pway!" and I will definitely commit murder. Someone has gone too far in moulding Gracie into the diabetic Olsen twins mould. "Mommy, I want to pway! I'm twee! Hungry!" - see this meat cleaver, lil' girl? Now get lost.

It's a pity this book is rereleased without any polishing up, because while the story isn't anything bad, this story could sure use some tighter editing and polishing. And an annoying, loud, lispy lil' girl definitely has to go.

Rating: 60


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