Hands On
by Christina Crooks, contemporary (2010)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-246-2


Talk about a melodramatic start. When Hands On opens, Ginnie Anderson, our puppeteer heroine, first rages at an intruder stomping at the roof of her rented bungalow. And then, once that is over, a huge storm breaks out, and the next thing she knows. the floor starts to rip open and sink. She runs down into the basement and flings herself over the trunks containing her precious puppets, screaming "Over my dead body!" at the world in general. And then house collapses on her.

No, Ginnie doesn't die. How nice for her that Harry Barrett, the owner of the bungalow, has a nice place for her to stay. He's a "millionaire a few times over", and he usually lets his people handle his business, but he discovers only recently that this bungalow is more appropriate for the setting of a Tales From The Crypt episode, and he's too late to prevent his assistant from leasing it to Ginnie. He arrives just in time to rescue her, although she makes it hard for him to do just that by trying to either save her precious marionettes or die trying.

Now that Ginnie has nowhere to go, of course he'd let her stay at his place, at least until she gets everything together again and he can boot her out with his conscience clear. Well, we all know what happens when these people stay in close proximity for prolonged periods of time. In fact, it's not long before they are boinking already. Happily ever after is still some way to go, though.

Ginnie is fleeing a creepy obsessive ex and her mother who takes the man's side, but as romance novels tend to be, she has to tend to Harry's little crybaby woes. Sure, Harry's ex-fiancée took offense at him showing her a prenuptial agreement and retaliates by framing him up as some kind of creepy pedophile, but since Harry is still rich, fabulous, and out of jail, it's not like he has that much excuse to be bitter. But bitter and whiny is what he is, as he generally acts like everything - even kids - will remind him of that time when he was in a Santa Claus suit and a boy accused him of touching the boy's pee-pee. So he takes it out of everything and anything like a surly little boy because he'd die if he is reminded even a little of that lovely day.

Harry's reaction is actually in line with the other aspects of this story, which are overblown and melodramatic, but his constant angst becomes tedious to follow after a while. After all, he is a multimillionaire who has everything most people can only dream of, and here he is whining and moaning that he can never trust anyone again... forever. His whole behavior just comes off as whiny and petulant.

Naturally, Ginnie is pretty understanding where he is concerned, as any other woman would have just walked out on Harry or just lie down and think of his huge bank account. But I find that it's a little too obvious that she's written in a manner to ensure that she is not allowed to walk away even if she wants to. She has all kinds of problems, but her stubborn insistence on being "independent" means that she will, more often than not, need rescuing from her own nonsense. And, of course, Harry and his big fat bank account are just the thing to brighten up her day.

Hands On is a combination of the "damsel on the run" and "betrayed emo hero" tropes, but somehow, the end result feels too contrived and melodramatic for its own good.

Rating: 57


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