by Toni Blake, contemporary (2005)
Warner, $6.50, ISBN 0-446-61487-4
Toni Blake wins my Author Most In Need Of Self-Awareness When It Comes To Her Plotting award for this year when she has the heroine uttering this line in her book: "You're only helping me because you think I'm a danger to myself, some stupid little waif playing private detective." The fact that an author can accidentally come up with the perfect summation of this story when she has otherwise no self-awareness as to how painfully idiotic her story is surely entitles her to a shiny new award of some kind that is shaped like an egg.
The plot is a familiar one: a prim and proper heroine drops everything to track down her missing "bad girl" sister when this sister stops calling home one day. Unfortunately, what makes this story bleed from familiar to imbecilic is the fact that our heroine, Stephanie Grant, decides to pretend to be a hooker and consort with the possible clients of her missing sister (who is a hooker when she goes missing) without doing any research or preparations whatsoever. Maybe in some alternate universe, such a heroine risking her life on impulse will be considered noble, but in my world, the best martyrs either make changes or die without annoying too many people. Ms Blake keeps saying that Stephanie has no choice but to play the hooker, but sheesh, I find myself wondering why Stephanie doesn't just get one of those hundreds of ex-Navy SEAL heroes flooding Romance Novel Land for help.
Especially, mind you, when Stephanie is a frigid twit terrified of sex. Yes, it really makes sense that such a woman will be able to pull off her hooker masquerade. Needless to say, our typical tortured guilt-ridden ex-cop Cajun hero Jake Broussard (whose background and characterization are so typical that I'm sure you can guess by now why he's angst-ridden and how hot he is in bed because he's a Cajun) has to keep rescuing her again and again. Is Stephanie appreciative? Of course not. She's supposed to be this successful career woman but she acts like some very silly young girl dressed up as a lamb trying to make her way across a room full of wolves.
The author is also not above using other blatant anvils of contrivances in her story, such as a too-smart teenaged runaway who helps our hero understand that he must Open Himself and Love Again.
At the end of the day, it is as if Ms Blake has deliberately set out to write the most annoying book possible for reasons only she will know. This book has everything to drive up my blood pressure: a stupid brat of a heroine doing dumb things non-stop, a hero so stereotypical that his name well as well be Template Guy, and a plot that emphasizes again and again how stupid the heroine is. If that's the case, the author has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Ergo, here's the Author Most In Need Of Self-Awareness When It Comes To Her Plotting award!
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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