She Went All The Way
by Meggin Cabot, contemporary (2002)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-008544-4


Meggin Cabot's debut contemporary for Avon, The Boy Next Door, is a pretty good mix of romantic comedy and chick-lit written in an inventive laugh-out-loud funny style. I eagerly open this, her latest contemporary, only to have my hopes dashed to pieces. This, people, is a very derivative and typical Romancing The Stone kind of story, not in the plot but in its bringing together the Action Hero and the Gal Klutz.

Okay, so one day somebody accidentally made that movie and discovers that there are legions of women out there for whom the movie is tailor-made for. Then every Silly Anna out there who doesn't write about breathless pirates is writing about useless, shrieky city gals falling for roguish adventurers. No great ensemble cast here, just some mildly funny lines, and lots of familiar territory I'd expect an author with some clout like Meggin Cabot will do better than.

Lou Calabrese is the romance novel Hollywood success story. Yes, this means that she embodies all that is good and holy in a cesspit of sin that is LA, same old tedious story. She has the vapid bimbo girlfriends, same old story there too. She writes the successful Copkiller movie and its subsequent eight sequels as well as an indie movie or two, and like Helen of Troy, Lou of Moo here has launched the careers of all her ex-boyfriends who then ditched her for prettier and livelier actresses. Or rather, so far we have seen only one case - her ex, Barry Kimmel aka Bruno di Blase - but she also launched the career of our hero Jack Townsend, the latter proceeding to dump her best friend for a series of walking spaghetti actresses.

She has never forgiven Jack for deliberately flubbing her line "It's only funny until someone gets hurt" into "I need a bigger gun". Never mind that "I need a bigger gun" becomes Jack the Action Hero's trademark line (sort of like "Hasta la vista baby" for Arnold Schwarzenegger here) - it's the principle of things. Our heroine doesn't like having one single line in her script tampered, even if her lines sound like the most vapid things ever. I mean, come on, "It's only funny until someone gets hurt"? What kind of action movie will that be?

And how likely is it that a script gets made without someone calling in at least one script doctor to make changes to it? How many script changes did The Princess Diaries underwent? Anybody? Ms Cabot?

The story begins when Lou's ex and Jack's ex get engaged. Lou and Jack find themselves in the same helicopter on their way to Alaska for some shoot, and they are not happy at all. But that's nothing compared to the fact that their pilot is an inept hitman hired to do away with Jack. The helicopter crashes, and as a result those two have to dodge wackos while trying to find their way to civilization again. Don't be fooled by the doggie in the cover, people, this is a busy road trip book and not some small town story.

Thing is, the characters start out as stereotypes but they never rise above that. Lou is the typically muddled addle-pated heroine who knocks down the bad guy and then weeps that she has killed him and oh, what if he has kids, et cetera, and she is also the type that will stop in the middle of escaping bad guys to whine that the hero is evil because he refuses to indulge her psychoanalyzing now. In short, a typical over-emotional wackjob stereotype that has been done again and again since the first woman or man decides that she or he too can write another Romancing The Stone kind of story. Jack, he's Jack. There's very little to say about him apart from the fact that he won't be surprising me with any unexpected lines or actions anytime soon.

The secondary cast is funnier because they don't have to play by the formula Meggin Cabot is adhering strictly to for her main characters, but they lack the warm camaraderie and likability of the cast in The Boy Next Door. The tedious and predictable conflicts that happen once the couple find their ways back to their set (complete with groveling or scheming exes to wedge more miscommunication problems between those two) only cement my disappointment.

Not that this book is in any way unreadable. The story flows well. It's just that the whole predictable way the story progresses disappoint me in just how mundane it is. Of course, when Suzie Shameless at Avon markets this book as "the most delightfully endearing romantic romp of the year" (the fiftieth book of theirs this year, I think, to be given the "most something of the year" label), how am I supposed to lower my expectations, huh, Suzie?

Seriously, this book isn't bad, but it's pretty much another rehash of the Action Man and Loud Klutz yarn. Nothing bad, but nothing new or inspired either. But I must say this: how nice of Avon to have brought this author in along with Stephanie Bond and who knows how many more authors of the romantic comedy subgenre that - if I dare say it - sometimes all read like the same people writing the same plots all at once. If this author's spectacularly familiar book is of any indication, Elizabeth Bevarly, Christie Ridgway, and even Rachel Gibson have better watch their backs. Things are heating up in Survivor: HarperCollins. Who will be eliminated next?

Carrie Ferron will be doing the reunion show. I wonder what song she will murder as she makes her way into the studio.

Rating: 82


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