by Julia Harper, contemporary (2009)
Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-61918-9
For The Love Of Pete is everything Hot could have been but wasn't - this is a very enjoyable and fast-paced zany caper that doesn't disappoint from start to finish. Like Hot, For The Love Of Pete is more like a romantic comedy that one would encounter in the movies than in romance novels, so expect this one to be a little different from the usual romantic comedies out there.
The Pete in the title refers to Petronella Spicy Hernandez. With a name like that, the poor dear's parents are either Hollywood celebrities with more money than common sense or white trash types who have read way too much about those celebrities. Well, in this case, Pete is the infant daughter of a member of the mob and his girlfriend. Ricky Spinoza and his girlfriend Nikki Hernandez along with Pete are currently under the FBI's witness protection program when Ricky decided to save his rear end by offering to squeal on his boss, Anthony diRossa.
Tony the Rose doesn't get to where he is without playing dirty, however. When the story opens, Ricky is about to testify against him, so Tony gets a few crooked FBI agents and a hitman to get rid of Ricky and his family. Things don't go as planned, however, and while a few non-crooked FBI agents bite the dust, Ricky and Nikki are not even close to being caught in the line of fire. Hitman Neil nonetheless manages to make his getaway along with baby Pete.
Our hero Dante Torelli manages to avoid the fate of his fellow FBI agents because he happened to arrive late at what is now the scene of the crime, and his day has only just begun. Within minutes, he finds himself sharing his BMW with Zoey Addler, Nikki's sister who is determined to get Pete back, as they speed off after Neil. Poor Dante also finds himself being framed for the shootout. If that doesn't make things lively enough, we have two sisters, Savita and Pratima Gupta, who are also after Neil because they claim that he has stolen some prized kesar from them (don't ask).
This is love on the run in every sense - the cast of characters are always on the move, chasing or being chased, and Dante and Zoey will have to find whatever opportunity available to sneak in some romance between them. These characters aren't the deepest, but given the structure of the story, I don't expect them to be. Zoey and Dante are well-drawn enough, however, as likable characters. They seem to be, on the surface, opposites of each other but once they dig a little deeper, they discover that they have enough things in common to start something good. A part of me wishes, though, that the author hasn't used the word "love" at the end because the story happens so fast and over such a short period of time that it's not love as much as it is more of a "I like you enough to want to start a possible relationship with you" kind of feeling between those two.
But don't read this for the romance, read it for the wacky fun story instead. Sure, we have zany hitmen with attitude, unlikely-looking damsels with big guns, and feisty Indian ladies who won't back down from anything and you can argue that they are stereotypes. But these characters are really fun to follow here. I find that the Indian ladies are too hilarious and actually quite accurate in many respects, heh. Neil the hitman who takes anger management classes is also too adorable for words, and the scene of him changing the baby's diaper is pure gold.
The pacing doesn't let up, which causes the story to be always moving in zany fast speed, and the way the story comes together is just too much fun. Also, I love the way the author also manages to make the whole setting comes to life. From the cold to the local eccentricities, the whole place just comes alive to me.
Offering non-stop wacky fun and some adorable romance to boot, For The Love Of Pete gets my love and a two thumbs up gesture.
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