The Trouble With Valentine's Day
by Rachel Gibson, contemporary (2005)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-000926-8


Is it just me or with each book of hers recently, Rachel Gibson seems to be on some frenzy to write the most clichéd books possible? I don't know. Maybe Ms Gibson's early work was once rejected by a Silhouette Desire author and now she's determined to show the Silhouette folks what they are missing. Again, I don't know. What I do know is that I wish there are reviews out there that have warned me about the hero Rob Sutter's nature. Much has been said about his tattoo (which I don't mind, as tattoos can be sexy) and Fu Manchu mustache (okay, to each his own, I guess), but I wish someone has warned me that this man is pushing the envelope when it comes to being a romance hero.

No, I'm not being anal or wanting to put everything in neat envelopes here. What I'm saying is that the hero cheated on his first wife nine months into the marriage with no good reason (then again, he's cheating on her before the marriage anyway, so...), acts as if the world owes him a sorry card when this results in a fiasco that ends his hockey career (in this book, he plays hockey with the NFL, heh heh - yup, the Avon editors are definitely asleep on the wheel), and in his courtship with the heroine Kate Hamilton, acts like a complete brat whenever there's any bumps in the road to happily ever after, prominently among his repertoire is he running off with some skanky ho that is always around to comfort him. By the last page, I am wondering what difference is this second time relationship of his with his first one.

Oh yes, the story. It's hard to give the storyline in a fresh and original manner, being that the story is not, so let's just say that this story has Kate Hamilton, after resigning from her PI job and vowing to stop holding out for unworthy men, ends up in smalltown Gospel where she throws herself at Rob in a bar. I can hear the Silhouette Desire editor crying her heart out right now, I tell you. He turns her down because after his Fatal Attraction fiasco, he starts wondering whether it's worth "risking his life" screwing women. Of course, he's tempted and there are no shortage of women wanting to throw themselves at him, but Kate is the only one who makes him really, really, really want to Do It.

Much of the romance seems to come about as a result of the antics of the townsfolk or from circumstances and coincidences, with very little chemistry generated between the characters. In fact, I don't get this impression that these two like each other very much because when they are not lusting after each other (and often whipping themselves for doing so), they are squabbling and Rob is working overtime to antagonize, bait, and even hurt Kate like some silly Neanderthal who can't get over the fact that he's dumb, unlikeable, and his glory days as a man of worth are long over. Although don't tell the women in this book that: they think Phew Manchu here is some first-class stud of some kind. This is not some annoying question of me wanting my characters to have "integrity" or "moral", just to make this clear, this is about common sense and self-respect. A sensible woman really should think twice about actually marrying a man like Rob Sutter, especially when he doesn't even come close to reforming by the last page of the book. Sleep with him? Hey, Kate can knock herself out for all I can care. Marry him? If she's my daughter, I'll have to sit her down and have a long talk with her about sex being a different thing completely from love.

There are some plenty of inadvertent jokes to laugh at when the author keeps bringing up the fact that these people are staunch Republicans when these people, especially the women, are acting like idiots. Also, the book is filled with a large number of unbelievably shoddy spelling mistakes for a published book (including the name of a character from a previous book) - maybe the editor spends her office hours surfing at monster.com instead of working?

Still, all that silliness are no consolation to my wondering at the end of the day whether Kate should keep a loaded gun within reach, just in case nine months down the road, when the baby is crying and the hero decides to decamp (just like he did to his daughter of his previous marriage), when another woman comes along and the hero decides that he can't keep his zip closed. The trouble with this book is that the hero isn't good husband material. He is a husband material, oh yes - to be more precise, he's the ex-husband material that a woman would be wise to keep in mind when she looks for a better man to share her life with. From the way Ms Gibson overemphasizes sexual attraction over offering a convincing romance, especially when a hero like Rob needs more than swagger to make him a convincing husband material in a romance novel, The Trouble With Valentine's Day just isn't worth the trouble, just like how Rob really isn't worth anything more than a one-time shag.

Rating: 51


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