Heat Wave
by Jennifer Archer, Katie MacAlister, and Sheridon Smythe; contemporary (2003)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52539-9


Heat Wave is in trouble from the get-go. It's based on the concept of a reality show starring 200 singles. They will date. They will be paired up after playing games and going for dates organized by the producers. Frankly, the whole thing sounds like a prom party at a Mormon community, but hey, that's just me. But the problem is, the logistics is screwed. How on earth are they going to show 200 people in a TV show? And frankly, who will want to see this show? It is not as if there's a humiliating catch ala Joe Millionaire or For Love Or Money. Worse, they cast fat women on this show. Everybody knows reality TV shows don't cast fat people on "romantic" reality shows unless it's Jerry Springer we're talking about.

So, the premise alone is cracked. Frankly, if they take so much effort to get 200 people together, they may as well give free pot to these people and tape a VH1 special of Morons Gone Wilder. Then at least there's some hope for this show, Eden, to be at least better than Chains Of Love or Married By America when it comes to being the most stupid of the stupids.

One thing remains true to the nature of reality TV shows though: the characters of the novellas here, especially the heroines - it's always the heroines - anyway, the characters are just as bad as the most deluded of reality TV contestants out there. I'm not talking about those unapologetic media hos who's on the show just for fame and money. I'm talking about those really deluded people that sincerely believe that The Bachelor is really a show all about true love.

Katie MacAlister's Bird Of Paradise is, I'm sorry to say, the most excruciating of the three. The author's trying way too hard to be funny. Her idea of being funny often leads to the longest, most convoluted run-on sentences I have ever read. By the time she gets to the punch line, I'm too exhausted trying to decipher the sentence to laugh anymore. And frankly, the heroine Hero "Hippopotamus" North is one of the most unlikable creatures I've ever come across in my book. She's beyond crazy, she's just vilely neurotic. Hero, wailing and whining about her fat ugly disgusting adiposy body - yes, Hero, I'm calling you fat FATFATFAT fatty FAT! - ends up on this Eden show while acting as if she's being dragged here beyond her will. She's just here, though, to get an inside scoop on this show. She meets this man, Adam Fuller, who's actually a PI hired by a football star to spy on the footballer's ex, one of the contestants here. Adam ends up assuming the identity of a radio sex therapist called Monday Marsh.

Apparently Monday Marsh is hot hot hot among ladies because of his tips on multiple orgasms and his trademark "And then my nipples exploded in delight!" catchphrase. To me, that nipple things sounds more appropriate for the sex jock of an adult gay radio station, but these women are probably also the last to know that Richard Chamberlain is gay. He also drags his neutered cat Jesus along because Jesus is so sad at losing his testicles.

Hippo sees Adam and because he is so hot, she immediately feels faint and flustered. She already has this opinion that American men are all nasty and tomcatty because her father divorced her mother and never mind that her mother is so happy at the divorce, Hippo knows that her mother is really upset and so all American men must be bastards. Then Adam smiles at her and Hippo immediately decides that he's not so bad after all. Then other women cling to "Monday Marsh" and immediately she goes back to the He Must Be A Bastard mode again. This woman is not only irrational, she is painful to follow. She keeps saying that men are all bastards except those that are nice to her. But at the same time she insists that all men that are nice to her must be bastards too, because remember, she is fat and hence ugly and unlovable! So which is it, really?

And the humor! If you're the kind of person that just erupts into laughter when the author drops "dirty words" like "testicles", knock yourself out. Bird Of Paradise is one excruciating novella that could use a giant Venus Flytrap in Eden to give the story a happy ending it deserves. With an insane and thoroughly loathsome whiny and irrational bitch like Hippo running the show, this is one novella that ends up playing like bad canned laughter to an empty auditorium. Frankly, any woman like Hippo stupid enough not to cling to a guy that knows the secrets to multiple orgasms deserves to be digested by a Venus Flytrap.

Jennifer Archer's Breaking The Rules is the best of the three novellas here. Unfortunately, while it's the best in this anthology swimming with flotsam and pieces of my exploded brain, it's actually a mediocre story starring characters that all plot contrivances cobbled together between too many bad series romance novel binges. Claire Mulligan and the man she believes she loves, James, must have mis-Fedexed their audition video to Eden instead of Temptation Island. See, now she is wailing and ended up stranded in areas marked "Off-limits" because her James is playing around with other contestants. All she wants is James and she to win the prize money of Eden and then use it to go on their honeymoon and open their business together. And here I thought Eden is supposed to be open to single people only? Hey, producers, let's disqualify Claire and James! Kick them out!

Anyway, so here we have Claire, stranded and needing a man's help (don't they always do?) when our hero Mitch Talbott happens to be there and takes her into his cabana for some necking and petting. I hope they capture all that on the feeds to show on TV. The problem starts when Claire asks Mitch to call her Amphitrite - Poseidon's wife - and Mitch just keeps calling her Aphrodite. Any man who can't get a woman's name straight can't be any better in anything else, surely? Mitch has some mission about wanting to show the producer his splendid camerawork - oh, and that's a way to boost one's credibility indeed. So while Claire dither and moan over the obvious, Mitch waits and waits and waits. While these two characters try to talk, their very formulaic paint-by-numbers characterization never let me forget that the characters are indeed fictitious, and very obviously so.

Sheridon Smythe's Hot Shot is another one of those "Yes, my characters do stupid things in a plot out of moron hell and you are supposed to laugh - why aren't you laughing?" farces. The heroine Whitney Sutherland is here to confront the host whom she believes is her father. Isn't Jerry Springer a more favorable venue for this nonsense? The hero Rand McNair needs a fake wife thanks to a will. Isn't it easier for him to just star in a Harlequin Temptation or something? She breaks into the editing room, he catches her, they kiss, the cameraman just happens to come in and starts filming, and one will have to be really new to romance novel not to see the predictable events that follow.

Then again, we're talking about a heroine that believes The Bachelor is all about true love. My sympathies to any woman who actually find the likes of Alex the Ten Foreheaded Monster, Aaron Bungcheese, and Andrew "Tirebelly, Whine, And Cheese" Firestone charming and romantic. I hear Paige Jones of For Love Or Money needs all the friends she can get. Won't you be her friend too?

In a way, this book is just like a reality TV show. Harlequin Blaze Idol, maybe, where authors tough it out to win the ultimate contract - with Harlequin Blaze! Heat Wave is like the Top Three episode, and yes, this is me, Mrs Giggles, officially resigning from judging this show. I can't take it anymore. Like Simon Cowell will say, "All of you are absolutely ghastly!"

Rating: 39


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