by Jane Graves, contemporary (2007)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-61786-4
Poor Darcy McDaniel. Our professional trophy wife has never really worked in her life, unless you count working to get Warren to marry her. Warren may be old enough to be her father, but he offers her money and a life in the lap of luxury. Or at least this was the case until Darcy comes home from a vacation at the beginning of the story and realizes that Warren had, during her absence, sold off their house, cleared their bank accounts, and disappeared after embezzling funds from his company. Darcy has to start all over again, and for a trophy wife a few months short of being forty, this isn't going to be easy. But working as a receptionist for the same repossession agency that took back her Mercedes may be a good way to start. The boss, John Stark, is a looker even if he doesn't think much of her at the start.
Hot Wheels And High Heels invites comparisons to Stephanie Plum with a heroine who attempts to learn how to be a repo agent but this story is actually nothing like a typical Stephanie Plum book. The emphasis here is on romance and Darcy's attempts to be her own person, not on any excitement that one can find working for a repossession agency.
Let's start with the good things first. This story is a whole lot of fun to read, mostly because Darcy is a most enjoyable heroine. She carries this story with her mostly unflagging attitude as well as her unexpected ability to make the best out of her situation. One thing I like about Darcy's self discovery is that she has to work to get there on her own. She doesn't get guided or helped along the way by a man. This story also has plenty of laugh-out-loud funny lines and it's really entertaining.
So much so that I'm actually surprised by how much I manage to enjoy this story because I personally don't believe that the romance between Darcy and John will last. The problem here is that Ms Graves writes this story for a different kind of reader, a reader that isn't me. She is writing the story for the breed of romance readers that expect a morality play in all their stories. You know, the one where the good girl wins. Darcy's coming of age is treated with such a high-handed righteousness here that I actually wonder what Ms Graves' problem is when it comes to spending money. John is Ms Graves' placeholder soapbox and my goodness, I have never met such an unpleasantly close-minded and judgmental hero in quite a while. Through John, Darcy is judged so harshly that I'd think she pimps out underage girls for drug money or something. The author works on the principle that I start out disapproving of Darcy and therefore I will cheer as she struggles to live up to the ridiculous expectations John sets up for her. I'm not that reader, however.
John comes off as a control freak with a streak of hypocrisy that is a mile wide at the very least. I love it when he says that he can't imagine spending so much money like Darcy on expensive clothes, adding that he only spends so much on guns and cars. Guns and cars. Things that he like, you see, and therefore things that he has no problem spending money on. So who is he to judge how Darcy spends her money? John puts Darcy through some really humiliating scenes here, especially a scene where he offers to pay for Darcy's clothes (she has no clothes of her own, you see) but only if he gets to choose what she buys and only for an amount up to a hundred dollars. Because I am not that reader who gets off on seeing a heroine punished for daring to love money, I wonder where John gets off on treating a woman that way.
I don't believe that the romance will last because John is too much of a judgmental control freak who always insists that it is his way or no one's way and if you disagree with him, you are therefore unworthy of his time and he will wash his hands off you. I wonder how his dear daughter in the future will be treated should she dare to ask for a Barbie doll.
At any rate, I love this story, but mostly because of Darcy. John can get run over by one of the cars he is trying to repossess for all I care. In fact, I'd give this book a keeper grade should that happen, come to think of it. At any rate, since Darcy wants to keep her miserly control freak asshole boyfriend, I'd like to cordially invite the zillionaire hunk Jeremy Bridges to my doorstep. He can buy me all the diamond rings and Godiva chocolates and obscenely expensive perfumes all he wants. Unlike Darcy, I won't think the worst of him for his generosity. Call me, darling!
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