From Boardwalk With Love
by Nina Bangs, contemporary (2003)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52506-2


Nina Bangs seem to be one of the rising number of romance authors that believe they will die the death of a million heretics if they commit the cardinal sin and give their heroines a brain. Many fangirl critics agree - they call Camryn O'Brien, Agent 36DD (DD for Dingbat Dungbrain, surely) a smart and intelligent woman.

Camryn, who uses her real name in an undercover assignment, botches up the simple act of unlocking her suite door ten seconds into her assignment, can't activate her gadgets even when she could have sit in her room and memorize that stupid manual, her robotic cat FIDO is out of control, she can't aim to shoot, she trusts too easily, she can't even think out of the box (the hero saves her, so he must be good - the idea that this may be what he wants her to think is not something that occurs to her pea-shell brain). She disapproves of cold-blooded agents (after all, secret agents should make looking for love their raison d'etre), she accidentally ka-pows the hero only to end up sighing as she molests his underwear when she should be looking for clues.

Then again, it isn't just her. The entire BLISS organization seems whacked. One female agent falls in love with her charge, thus confirming my suspicions that if you send a romance novel heroine to kill Saddam Hussein, she'll end up marrying him and protesting that poor Dammy is just misunderstood because his bitch momma left his daddy for another man or something. The only comparatively sane person in this story turns out to be the villain.

This isn't a James Bond spoof. This is Nina Bangs' revenge on all those idiot movies where inept male spies somehow save the day and win the babe.

Camryn is sent to protect Owen Sitall, a millionaire who has an island custom designed to resemble a Monopoly game. There as well is the hero Jace Sentori, Sitall's illegitimate son who shares his penchance for corny names. Someone is trying to kill Sitall - no, not Camryn, although she comes close to destroying the whole island - so it's up to Jace to save the day and stop Camryn from accidentally beheading herself - and him - with a tree branch. For a moment, I suspect that BLISS is in fact the evil villain, because who the hell will send a weapon of mass destruction like Camryn to protect anybody? Heck, send her to Iraq, Palestine, and Israel and we'll see peace on earth in two weeks' time, tops.

But to be fair, the author is aware that Camryn is a walking nuclear time bomb. Yet I do not understand why she thinks that this is funny. Will it kill her to make Camryn grow up even a little in the end? By making the rational one the villain, this book ends up celebrating female ineptness and visceral impetuousness over analytical thoughts as virtues to cherish. The author has no idea how devastatingly accurate she is when she has the hero describing Camryn as a dangerous woman. Stupidity, ineptness, and a body suit filled with weapons combined make Camryn someone even the hardened tyrants in the world will quake in fear for.

And in the end, BLISS promotes her. I'll see you people in the caves in those mountains that they hide in in that Deep Impact movie.

As a parody, From Boardwalk With Love does have its moments, thanks to the likable and capable hero and various nudge-wink elements that are pretty amusing. But in the end, the biggest parody of all is Camryn, the walking joke that combines all those chauvinist jokes about inept women in one walking package of disaster waiting to happen. But don't get too excited, guys - she doesn't even have the 36DD bazookas to complete the dumb hot package stereotype. If I'm a chauvinist pig, I'd wonder aloud then what good this woman is for. Oops.

Rating: 65


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