No Strings Attached
by Judy Gill, paranormal (2000)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52366-3


This book is gross. Not because it has rotting zombies eating brains or anything gory (too bad - could've liven up things), but it tries too hard to be kooky and funny. The result is a bland hero, a heroine who seriously seems as if she's high on some weed all the time, and a plot that is simply absurd. Conversation is always stilted and awkward, and nobody in real life or good fiction says or does things these people do.

What would you do if you find a genie that grants you three wishes? Let me just say that if this lucky bug actually has to ask for advice as to how to request for a wish, she's a definite no-brainer. Meet Holly O' Mara, who runs some sort of New Age-y store that sells seaweeds or something. She finds a genie called Ted in a jerry can, and can't think of a wish to ask. I'd suggest asking for a brain, for one.

Holly is house sitting for her wealthy, elderly, and best client who must been even more not-there to entrust her house to Holly. The lady's son Luke Nathan is also around the place, using his binoculars and cameras to spy on Holly bathing in clingy shirt (without a bra) in the nearby lagoon. He's there to capture on film the existence (or non-existence) of a sea serpent called the Cadborosaurus in the lagoon.

They meet, sparks fly, and I'm subjected to what must be the worst Emotional Baggage On Crack ever in a romance.

Holly has no self-esteem. Why? Because when she was a child, her daddy left her momma to raise she and her sisters alone. Momma calls her brats all sorts of bad words, and Holly take the bad words to heart. She's just like her selfish father, she thinks. When her practical sister Rose tells her that their mother is a selfish idiot, Holly nods and thinks, that's worse - that makes me, who is supposed to be like my father, even worse!

So she can't be loved, ever! And she can't be a good mother too, because she's supposed to be like her father, and besides, even otters don't trust her with their kits (don't ask). And there's more stupid delusional psychological self-sabotage from this woman. After a while I stop thinking of her as a junkie and start pitying her.

I never can stop thinking of her as an overgrown five-year old, which makes her love scenes with Luke absolutely obscene. Luke is commitment-phobic, hence the way he leads the starry-eyed, clueless puppy that is Holly around is like watching a pug puppy being flattened by a tow truck. Horrifying.

Dialogs are weird, bordering on too-obvious attempts at trying to pull at my heartstrings or pulling a too-cute act. Advice to these people: don't try too hard. "You have dark hair and creamy skin. The cat has dark trim and cream-colored fur. You're both very beautiful" is Luke's attempt at pick-up. Uhm, deep.

Did I mention that the conflict between Luke and Holly is because:
(a) Holly thinks lawyers are scum because ... just because. Guess what Luke's occupation is,
(b) Holly thinks Luke is a bad son because Luke refuses to believe his mother when the old woman talks about the Cadburysaurus... or is it Malborosaurus? Or whatever.

Definitely not a healthy woman, this Holly.

No Strings Attached is dry, stilted, and never actually takes off the landing pad. With too-bland and too-kooky characters, this story is like - to paraphrase REM - a bad joker hitting at punchlines that is never there.

Rating: 24


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