Hearts Of Steel
by Geri Guillaume, contemporary (2002)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-364-5


Normally, a book like Hearts Of Steel will have me shrieking in terror. This story is overrun by family members, as if their upcoming books aren't enough, and everyone has no personality or motivation apart from seeing everyone else wedded and bedded. This is the start of a multi-author series called Family Reunion (Shirley Hailstock is penning the next book in the series). Oh, and yes, get the pen and cardboard ready to make your own family flow chart or risk a migraine from trying to make out who's who.

Funny thing is, I end up chuckling, even laughing, and I wish I can stay awhile and listen to Shiri Rowlan a little longer. This story is told from her point of view alternated with the hero's, and she is a riot. If Ms Guillaume (incidentally, how do you pronounce "Guillaume", anybody?) is having a great time writing this book, I can imagine that. Shiri is one fine girl.

This is the story of how she meets and falls for a football player, Jack "JD" Deenan - she has her own ideas what JD stands for - and how her entire family push them both together. Dotty mothers, grandmothers, siblings, and friends (all females, because we know women have nothing better to do than to force each other to get married - I want porn!) all push each other as they jostle for the limelight, and if I'm JD, I will be very afraid. After all, he isn't just marrying Shiri, he's marrying a large, sequel-ready family that seems to have no concept of space and personal boundaries.

JD is less interesting compared to Shiri's really sharp wit and exasperation at her own clan's unwillingness to butt out of her affairs, but he's okay, I guess. I guess, because he and Shiri aren't actually the stars of this story, even if this is supposed to their story (am I making sense here?). No, the other members of the Johnson clan hijack this story and practically do their own garish can-can ticky-tacky version of Hello, Dolly!.

That's a big pity because despite being set up as the usual no-life career woman, Shiri's wit and way of looking at things actually lets her transcend that stereotype and be someone more likable and saucy than I expected her to be. The author isn't as successful in bringing out JD's male voice, but he'll do.

Ms Guillaume has in her hands two characters who will and can make her story shine. But she chooses instead to drown those poor sods in a cacophony of incessantly nosey "dotty" family action antics. Shiri makes this book worth reading, but for far too often, both she and JD can barely get a word in among the chaos. Too much dead weight and unnecessary baggages make Hearts Of Steel an almost literary Titanic, with Shiri's joie d' vivre the only thing that is keeping it afloat. Too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth.

Rating: 83 (I really, really like Shiri.)


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