Completely Smitten
by Kristine Grayson, paranormal (2002)
Zebra, $6.50, ISBN 0-8217-7147-7


Readers who haven't read the previous related books Utterly Charming and Thoroughly Kissed may be lost while reading Completely Smitten. The hero goes by so many different names here, his background here is sketchy and I have to rely on my recollections of the previous two books to keep track of the hero's multiple names here, so I don't know how a newbie will fare. Consider this a friendly social service from your neighborhood scary old biddy Mrs Giggles.

If you have read the previous two books, this is the story of Darius/Andrew Vari/Sancho Panza/Andvari/etc. Yes, that barely five feet tall dwarf creature that matchmakes the couples in the previous two books, he finds luuurve here. But before you Society of Dwarves, Midgets, Stumpies, Shorties, Gnomes, and Other Vertically Challenged People For A Better World members give Ms Grayson a medal, be warned: Darius' real form is a very tall, very handsome Greek athlete (think naked white marble sculptures, only with a bit extra in the dingdong department, of course). Darius even calls his Stumpy the Dwarf form "short" and "ugly". When it comes to political correctness, Ms Grayson is at least ten years behind. Doesn't she know that it's now cool to make fun of thin and beautiful people but not short and fat people?

But you get the idea, right?

Darius is cursed to be Stumpy by the Three Fates. Oh, and yeah, if you haven't read the author's previous two books, you may not know that Greek/Roman/Norse "gods" here are actually immortal mages rather than gods that meddle with human lives. So I'm telling you now, because the author kinda forgets to elaborate on that in this book. Anyway, Darius meddles once too often in Cupid's love life (he's the one that tells the braindead Psyche to light a candle to spy on her sleeping hubby Cupid, and he's also the one to cause a wax on the candle to spill onto Cupid's shoulder, causing Cupid to run crying home to his Incestuous Mamma and then Momma tortures the braindead Psyche into consorting with ants and birds and when Psyche finally suffers and takes all crap, both the incestuous Cupid and Aphrodite magnanimously forgives Psyche and they live happily ever after. The Most Moronic Love Story Ever Told. Now where was I?)...

As I was saying before I got sidetracked, Darius meddles too often in Cupid's business and gets cursed. He must now unite 100 soulmates before he can revert back to his unstumpy form. But for two weeks every year, though, he gets to be in his unstumpy form too. Anyway, he has reunited 99 couples. One more to go. Guess who's the lucky 100th couple.

It is His Royal Unstumpiness that Ariel Summers encounters when she injures herself while hiking in what seems like the very woods they made the Evil Dead movie in. He rescues her, fries her eggs (I mean, he really cooks her eggs for breakfast and it's not what you horndogs are thinking), and they realize that wow, this is the greatest love story ever told. I don't see it at all, naturally, but hey, if they say this is the greatest amour ever, so be it. I'll buy it. Pepe LePew says his love story with that male cat is the greatest too, and I bought that as well.

Still, can't have our heroine falling for a midget now, eh? I wonder if Ms Grayson has ever stumbled upon that online site I accidentally did once, where apparently there are some very nice advantages to having a midget lover. For example, they apparently overcompensates for the their height by having amazing skills with their tongues and fingers... ahem. Never mind. This is a romance novel, and we all need our tall, handsome, and lying scumbag fantasy prince, so we'll get one. Bye, bye, my stumpy Prince Of Good Head. Maybe in another lifetime.

So no Stumpy for Ariel, and so Darius pulls some emotional baggages out of nowhere - do you know that it is he, not Lancelot, who shags Guinevere silly? Arthur blames Lancelot, and we know what happens next. Darius is so sorry over that, oh boo-hoo, he can never love again, so run, Darius, run!

Ariel wakes up to an empty cabin. Oh, her great love! Oh, amour, where art thou? Oh, woe! When she learns from a pilot that the owner of the cabin is one stumpy midget and not that Greek God of her dreams, she is puzzled, but hey, he's gone, what can she do?

Cut to today, where our heroine has lost her job and desperate, she comes to Oregon and applies for a waitress position at the restaurant of the hero of Utterly Charming. And there was... Stumpy Darius! She is sure that Stumpy knows Greek God is, and she wants to ask him, but Stumpy knows that he must keep lying to her and drive her away. For her own good, of course, it's always for her own good.

Still, the story does move on towards some semblance of good melodrama towards the end, where the heroine does convincingly say that it doesn't matter if Stumpy is Stumpy or Greek God. Darius turns on the pained-can't-love shtick very well, and I am moved especially by the last few chapters. The whole beauty-deeper-than-skin (okay, maybe deeper by a few millimeters), love-for-all-lifetime yarn is pretty effective.

What's not effective is that I find myself wondering what exactly is the basis of the whole well-done melodrama. I don't get the whole big love thing at all because like I said earlier, the author's love at first sight thing doesn't make a convert out of me. I don't buy that, so I'm not exactly buying the whole melodrama either. Also annoying is Ariel's sudden revelation that she's a magical creature. Where did that come from? (Don't make me answer that, please.)

Still, points must be given for the very nicely done last few chapters, where the emotions lacking in the rest of the book crescendos into beautiful drama. Also, points must be given for Ms Grayson's sticking to her agenda. When she says that beauty isn't just skin deep, she tries to stick by it (as much as the romance novel formula will allow) to the bitter end. And that, indeed in my opinion, is something worthy of a Mrs Giggles' Two Thumbs Up, for what it's worth.

I guess that in the end, midgets need love too, even if said midgets happen to just be Antonio Sabato Juniors waiting to break free from Nasty Curses. Or something.

Rating: 85


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