A Touch Of Charm
by Karen Fox, historical (2003)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7455-7


Let's see if I can get this straight: this book is part of the now defunct Zebra Ballad line, although obviously Zebra is still publishing its Ballad backlogs, of which A Touch Of Charm is book two of the series. The whole series is about three sisters, one plain, one shy, one clumsy, that make a wish at some magical stones called the Three Graces. Instead of wishing for a long healthy life filled with joy or even a zillion dollars, each twit wishes for beauty, charisma, and grace respectively. Worthless, these traits, as someone should tell these twits that beauty, charisma, and grace will eventually be defeated by age, gravity, and athritis. But hey, we are talking about romance heroines here. These creatures tend to be a little on the moron side at times.

This book is Charisma Sullivan's story. She wished for charisma, so the Greek goddess Thalia decides to help Charisma by matchmaking her with the visiting politician Will Barclay. Obviously Thalia, being a Greek goddess, can't understand English too well because she must have misunderstood "charisma" for "stereotype". Charisma is predictably gorgeous but she's all about Women's Rights (lip service, of course). Thalia helps suggest to Will that he gets a fake date while doing his electorate BS sessions in order to fend off all those aspiring Monica Lewinskies and their mommies. Will agrees, because that way, he will have more time to focus on his political iternary. He doesn't want to marry because all the marriages he has come across, including one in his family, don't work, yadda yadda yadda. But Charisma is so outspoken, so hot, oh, so what to do?

Charisma is supposed to be gifted in the gab department. I don't see it. All I see is a vapid, barely adult nitwit stammering and staring at the hero with stars in her eyes. The author doesn't show me why Charisma likes Will. She tells me, telling me that Charisma sees the honorable and courageous side of Will. I look at Will and wonder what Charisma must be smoking. Will is a horrible politician! This story has almost no conflict, unless I'm to assume annoying prepubescent ogling and stammering "conflict", but the puny one towards the end sees Charisma being Bitterly Disappointed with Will because Will refuses to make a stand about women getting the right to vote. (For some reason, our asinine heroine assumes that Will will surely back her up when she jumps the gun and makes a fool of herself in public.) Will is so wishy-washy, his "speeches" filled with vague and insubstantial feel-good yammering, he comes off more like an insincere rat than the dynamo young Democrat the author writes him as. So, in a desperate attempt at life support, the author makes Will's brother even worse than Will in some valiant but futile attempt to make Will come off as better. What a cop out, really. It's like saying I better marry the jerk because his brother runs over puppies and is hence a worse person in comparison.

Ms Fox tells me that Charisma and Will are in love instead of showing me. The characters in this book behave like silly teenagers at their first co-ed summer camp acting all stupid. These characters aren't interesting or original either. Will has the charisma of a tree stump while the inexplicably named Charisma should really be renamed Silly Chit. At the end of the day, the charmless A Touch Of Charm could use a whole lot of charm for itself, because reading it is like eating dry bread crust with a touch of mold.

Rating: 52


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