The Pleasure Principle
by Shirley Harrison, contemporary (2004)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-483-8


No offense to accountants out there, but stories set in an accounting firm, revolving around the drudgery of accounts, aren't exactly what I'd consider fun tales to read about. It takes a very skilled author - or lots of hunky accountants dancing naked on the office tables - to make me care. Shirley Harrison's annoying heroine and her DOA romantic suspense subplot, unfortunately, do not do the trick where The Pleasure Principle is concerned.

Natalie Goodman is one of those bizarre mundo women in romance novels that use their career as a shield for their "no love, no cry" principles. For Natalie, the pleasure principle in question is her having a good time without putting her heart at stake. The same old tedious family baggages are at work here. The pleasure principle is also the reason why Natalie refuses to consider a serious relationship with David Spencer. When they meet again when David's sneaky sister, Davida, exploits her own kid to get David and Natalie, the kid's newly-appointed godparents, back together again. Don't I wish to be surrounded by friends and family members whose only reason to live is to see me wedded and bedded! On second thought, I'd rather not. Get those creeps away from me or I'd not be responsible for how my leg slips on the accelerator when they happen to get in front of my car.

But instead of focusing on the romance, the author has David and Natalie solving an embezzlement case in Natalie's workplace and my, chasing a paper trail is exactly as riveting as trying to swat flies in a deserted restaurant in a hot, lazy afternoon. Natalie is a cardboard character with very little in her that is recognizable as human: as a "feisty" woman, Natalie has the remarkable ability to say and do the wrong things that worsen any situation she's in. Readers who don't find heroines that take ropes given to them and hang themselves in misguided displays of "courage" and "spunkiness" will find little to like in Natalie. David is even less of a well-drawn character: he's a flat Mr Perfect with very little to distinguish him from the bland pretty wallpaper in the background. His function in this story is to be the nice guy foil to Natalie's silly antics but after a while I'm wondering what it is that he surely has to see in Ms Dim Bitch here to still want her after her one "feisty" nonsense too many in pushing him away.

The romantic suspense plot has all the hallmarks of a typically mediocre textbook example of shoddy plotting and tired villainous motivations. The romance is more akin to a very patient man waiting in the wings for the heroine to come to her senses. Whatever The Pleasure Principle is, I have a sneaky suspicion that I'd have better fun doing the DIY alternatives than trying to work so hard to finding it in this book.

Rating: 52


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