Causing Havoc
by Lori Foster, contemporary (2007)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21423-7


Now that she's back with Penguin, Lori Foster offers Causing Havoc, which is actually more ambitious that her previous few books because there are attempts to create some kind of family drama here instead of merely some padded Harlequin Blaze thing. However, the characters in this story behave in all kinds of bizarre manners that leave me confused. I think the title is referring to what this book does to my brain.

This is the story of an "extreme fighter" Dean Conor, who is known as Havoc to his fans. He gets back with his estranged sisters Cam and Jacki and meets Cam's best friend Eve Lavon in the process. The focus of this story is Dean and his sisters, however, to the point that Eve and Dean have a perfunctory relationship that is often pushed to the background. The family drama, however, is pretty confusing.

For example, Dean knows where his sisters are all this while, but he never contacts them. Why? I don't know. Apparently he's hurt that the mean aunt forced him to go live with his uncle - maybe he's rather resentful that his sisters apparently lived in luxury while he had to grow up to become this big baby, but that makes him more petty than angsty, doesn't it? Or, I don't know, maybe he's angry that his sisters apparently forgotten him quickly, but as Cam reminded him, she was two when the whole estrangement happened so it's not as if he could blame her for being deliberately petty. And even when Dean realizes that his sisters, especially Cam, are too stupid to live and need his manly help to fix their lives, he keeps saying that he doesn't want to let them know that he cares for them. Good grief, he should know that his sisters have nothing to do with his angst, so why he is acting like a complete big baby? I am confused.

And Cam, oh my goodness. This woman either loves being a martyr or she is arguably one of the most stupid canon fodder around. I don't know why she is so blind to the fact that Roger, the man her crazy bitch aunt is urging her to marry, is pure slime. In fact, the aunt wanting her to marry him should be a warning sign to ditch the man and run the hell away.

Eve, our heroine, is a typical Lori Foster heroine. She starts out teasing the hero and acting like she's this life of the party, but sure enough she soon becomes a typical Harlequin Blaze dim-witted heroine. It is as if the more the hero shags her, the more her brain cells wilt and die. Why is she trying so hard to keep the problems of Cam and Jacki from Dean? He is their brother. If she cares for these women so much, shouldn't she tell Dean to knock some sense into Cam? But no, she acts dismayed when her mother tells Dean tales about his sisters because gossiping is so not done. I'm confused.

Dean knows that the crazy bitch aunt did some bad things, but of course he won't tell his sisters (and me). He doesn't care, remember? Some hero.

And then there's Roger. Ms Foster writes him at first as this abusive jerk who snarls and stomps and acts with all the subtlety of an enraged hyena. Then, towards the end of the story, he's suddenly a good guy.

The entire plot is bewildering. Characters are keeping secrets for no rational reasons other than perhaps because they can and they want to see how far up my blood pressure can go before I burst a vein in my head. Eve wants to sleep with Dean, no she doesn't, yes she does, no she doesn't, and - oh gosh, there are so many more pages to go before the story ends - look, she doesn't want to again. She and Dean are utterly dull together because Lori Foster apparently can write only one kind of hero and one kind of heroine and... well, she's still writing, isn't she? Their relationship is pretty much chemistry-free rushes into sex scenes punctuated by scenes where he wants more and she, depending on how many pages we have until the happy ending, will do all kinds of weird things to prolong their "courtship". Cam is so ridiculous as a woman who is determined to shoulder everyone's burden on her shoulders, especially when she lacks the competence to be some kind of Super Everywoman person. I don't even want to start on Roger.

Causing Havoc is easily one of the most contrived romance stories I've come across because the characters are doing things here just to prolong the plot. Their motivations don't make sense from page one when Dean is acting like he's so blue and sad because he doesn't call or write to his sisters whose address he knows all along. Character development is as smooth and convincing as Gargamel trying to sell some real estate to the Smurfs. This is not Lori Foster's first book (unless it probably is, fished out from the drawer?), so I don't know what happened here. Too ambitious to the point that ambition outstrips her ability? Hanging out too often with Carol Lynne? Too busy compiling recipes? Causing Havoc is more like the work of a very inexperienced author.

On the bright side, I suspect the next book will be much better. Then again, Lori Foster putting her name on the cover of a telephone book will come up with a better book than this perplexing and incomprehensible mishmash of Harlequin Blaze clichés and mystifying behavior called Causing Havoc.

Rating: 05


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