Looking For Laura
by Judith Arnold, contemporary (2001)
MIRA, $5.99, ISBN 1-55166-828-9


Judith Arnold tries to channel those road trip romance stories, but she only partially succeeds with Looking For Laura. The humor is there, the heroine has spunk, and the hero... well, he has a great butt or something, but all it takes to shoot this story in its own foot is that Annoying Brat, a five-year old gruesome pipsqueak named Rosie.

Sally Driver has just lost her husband Paul, but her problem is just beginning. Such as when she finds a stash of love letters to her husband hidden in late hubby's sweater. They are lurid and hilariously purple letters from a woman named Laura. Laura? Who's that bitch Laura?

She storms her late hubby's best buddy Todd Sloane's office - okay, scumbag's friend, confess, who's this bitch Laura? Todd has no idea, and he is offended. Sure, Sally's just some woman Paul married after he knocked her up, but what's this, man? How dare Paul never share this adultery tidbit with his best buddy? Forget Sally, Todd Is Offended. And Hurt. He Feels Betrayed. Oh!

Welcome to Village Homoerotica, where all macho man-to-man passions are suppressed because the MIRA editor has padlocked the closet door.

Anyway, eventually after some funny (and some not funny) hijinks, these two and Sally's daughter Rosie embark on a road trip to find Laura.

Sally is pretty funny, and she's okay, although the author loses me a little by making Sally attracted to Todd so soon. It's a bit like a rebound, see? And while Sally is fun, Todd is more of the stereotypical stick-up-my-bungee-hole hero who everybody will do well to "forget" to invite to a party because he is such a killjoy.

But while Laura could have been fun, Rosie-from-Hell makes me want to rip my own liver out of my abdomen and just die. She is the most grotesque creature I have ever encountered in a romance novel, anything, and yes, I've factored in the Olsen twins in this equation. Rosie-from-Hell keeps calling Todd "Daddy's friend" or "Friend of Daddy" that I soon find myself screaming "Dammit, Todd, his name is Todd, TODD, TODD! T-O-D-D! Toad, Toad - I mean, TODD! AAAHHH!" And when she starts singing something about happy lions and perverted tigers (or something) over the road trip, I think my liver has swelled to gigantic proportions. Rosie-from-Hell is in almost every scene, and worse, the author uses Rosie as a spokesperson from Chicken Soup (Laced With Marijuana) For Kids Who Give Love Advice That Are Actually Beyond Their Intellectual Capabilities.

I'm sure someone told the author that "looking through the eyes of the innocent" or some crap like that is cute and touching. Yes, see? I'm touching my chest hard right now because an arrythmia is coming on. Rosie-from-Hell is the new Rosemary's Baby.

I don't know. On one hand, I shouldn't let one thing mar my whole enjoyment of a book I recognize as funny, witty, and rollicking... right? But that one single irritant is so excruciating to follow that it really does ruin my reading experience. I'll be generous, but I cannot in all honesty say I don't experience gag reflexes whenever Rosie-from-Hell is in the picture. Maybe readers with higher tolerance for Olsen pipsqueaks and "innocent eyes" or something like that will enjoy this book more. Maybe.

Rating: 75


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