Knock Me Off My Feet
by Susan Donovan, contemporary (2002)
St Martin's Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-98374-3


I don't know if Susan Donovan is a new author or not, but Knock Me Off My Feet sure reads like an unedited first draft of a first effort. In the first chapter alone, the heroine changes her moods with what seems like every other paragraph that I stop counting after the sixth mood swing and chalk Autumn "Audie" Adams up as a walking schizophrenic toothpick.

But that is just the first chapter. Throughout the whole book, the moods and temperaments of the heroine and the hero Stacey Quinn (detective) swing back and forth without rhyme or reason. Audie will burst into tears in one paragraph, but the next paragraph will see her getting all irritated or annoyed over some imagined slight. Not one of the characters come off in any way a coherent personality.

Add in some of the worst police procedures around, some painfully contrived plot devices and secondary characters, and I get a book that comes this close to being a wallbanger.

Audie Adams has a career as Homey Helen, sort of like Martha Stewart, only minus the police record. One of her fans turn psycho and start sending her macabre death threats (the threats are the best parts of this story), so in comes Detective Stacey Quinn to save the day. Along the way they fall in love. I wish I can sit down that psycho and tell him or her that it just won't do to stalk after someone called Homey Helen. Homey Helen! Stalkers with good taste stalk after classy people like Jodie Foster. Homey Helen? May as well write love letters to Barney the Purple Obscene Dinosaur, at least that may give the poor sod a postcard for his troubles.

I've already said that the characters are more like walking, talking laundry lists of traits as opposed to being well-drawn characters. Audie has a sex life, but that doesn't make her any more credible as a realistic character. It is hard to see her as nothing but a contrivance when all six of her lovers in a ten-years time are no good. It is also painful to see her having a hissyfit because she is "humiliated" when she is caught staring or having kissed the hero. This heroine may have six lousy lovers, but she seems to see flirting as a mortal sin.

The hero? What a creep. This is a detective who is supposed to be investigating a case, but he spends more time lusting, pawing, or snogging the heroine. It is hard to accept that he never even consider his actions a breach of work ethics. But even more shocking is his glib blabbing of details of his case to his brothers (they're having their books out soon - buy, buy, buy!) - is he allowed to do that? His investigative techniques are not only juvenile but unforgivably half-hearted (his lil' head is obviously more interested in something else). If Stacey Quinn is going to protect me, I may as well get naked, paint a bullseye on my stomach, and walk into a RWA conference right away, because that man is definitely not going to do me any good. Although he does do Audie good, if you know what I mean.

A hero and a heroine trapped in a relationship that rarely goes beyond the skin-flick attraction, their personalities never coming together well at all, bizarro plot, and really bad police work make this book a failure as a romance as well as a minor romantic suspense story. The love scenes aren't too bad, and I kind of like one of those brothers who seem more developed than the cardboard patchworks that are the characters and sequel baits in this story, but for me, those aren't enough to redeem this story.

Susan Donovan has knocked me off my feet alright - right into a stupefying daze. I really hope her next book will see characters resembling non-schizophrenic people and a plot that doesn't seem as if the author is making things up as she goes along. Oh, and it won't hurt to relax and ease up on the forced humor too (most of which sees our heroine doing "wacky" things, haw haw not). Like they say in tai-chi classes, let it flow, people. Floooow.

Rating: 49


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