Blue Skies
by Catherine Anderson, contemporary (2004)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-21075-1


Good news first - Blue Skies is Ms Anderson's latest Trauma of the Week book but it's definitely less exploitative than usual. The really bad news now - it's a Surprise Baby book and it is filled with so many stupid clichés, the same clichés that make the Surprise Baby plot unbearably dumb in the first place, that I won't be surprised if readers use this book for discus throw practice. The heroine Carly Adams is so pitifully stupid and stubborn that she makes my blood boil more than once.

The hero Hank Coulter, cowboy stud and carefree ne'er-do-well, is stupid too, but he grows as a character, so everything is forgiven. "What can it hurt?" he thinks as he quits digging for the condom stash in the glove box of his pickup truck and rams the big boy home straight into Carly Adams' bimbo box. You guess what happens next. Seriously, he has rubber and he instead prefers to assume that she's on the Pill and rams it home. May I suggest the next time that authors like Catherine Anderson put a disclaimer at the front page instead of another cutesy "To my darlings" dedication, something like "This is a fantasy story so I have decided that there is no such thing as STDs in the world. It's deliberate on my part. So enjoy!"? That way, those voices in my head that keep pointing out how stupid these characters are will finally stop and I can read in peace. Otherwise, please, don't even bring up condoms and remind me of the characters' stupidity.

Carly's Trauma is that she was blind from birth - she has congenital cataracts and recurring lattice dystrophy. A recent surgery allows her to see and now she's grabbing life by the hilt, so to speak. Apparently being blind in the past means that she also has to be a complete fool when it comes to sexuality. Her talk with her friend Bess about her one-night stand with Hank reveals what a complete idiot she is ("I think he used protection... I'm pretty sure he didn't ejaculate in me") that I almost fling this book down in disgust. Her subsequent actions and declarations are predictably dumb - she doesn't want child support, she doesn't even want Hank to know about the child, et cetera - thus making things worse, as if things need be any worse. It's all about her. It infuriates me that she doesn't seem to care that she's financially strapped, her pregnancy will require her to undergo another expensive surgery to restore her sight, and then there's her bringing up the kid when she can barely see after giving birth. And let's not even talk about medical bills and other very expensive costs of bringing up a child. And Miss Moron 2004 here acts as if it's all about her and her stubborn pride. Can I beat her senseless with the stupid stick?

Then they marry, and the heroine of course insists that it is all for convenience because nobody can want her, boo-hoo-hoo, pity party for one, someone please drop a bomb on the heroine because she's making me want to slash my wrists to end the pain of having to follow her whine and moan and act like a complete brain-scooped invertebrate.

While the heroine really need to die very slowly and very painfully, the hero on the other hand is really well done. Hank starts out an irresponsible and rather cowardly ne'er-do-well, but at least he has the guts to take responsibility for his carelessness. Unfortunately, the heroine ends up giving him the most resistance in this story, although he stands firm against her monstrous stupidity - good for him, I say! Unlike the usual Perfect Princes of Charming the author usually has for heroes, Hank comes off as very human at first - flawed, often disagreeable, but at the end, he does the right things to redeem himself. But true to the Catherine Anderson style of soap opera though, he ends up shouldering the burdens of the heroine on his broad shoulders and by the last page of the book, he's mutated into a typical Perfect Prince Charming. Well, someone has to be sane one, and Carly is three bread slices short of a mouldy loaf to even come close to qualifying.

I should also point out that the book is filled with really infuriating double standards regarding female sexuality, such as Hank worrying about what his family will think of Carly having a kid out of wedlock. It takes two to tango, but apparently not in this author's tidy little story. Then again, why worry about double standards and neurotic portrayal of female sexuality? The heroine is an utter moron, the plot is rubbish, so I'd be more surprised if I find anything good about this story.

The later parts of the book can get really too sentimental and manipulative, but what's a Catherine Anderson novel without some shameless and blatant bad daytime soap opera moments, right? The hero is really alright, but it's a complete waste that the plot of Blue Skies revolves so much around an imbecile heroine in a dud plot that insults my intelligence in every possible way. So yes, Blue Skies isn't too exploitative for a Catherine Anderson book, but unfortunately, it's also an utterly stupid book. At the end of the book, it's still a lousy Catherine Anderson book. How sad indeed.

Rating: 53


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