Smitten
by Sonia Icilyn, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-426-9


Sonia Icilyn's latest offering, Smitten, has a tone and city-girl affectations that may endear itself to fans of chick-lit fiction. I would have enjoyed this book better if the entire premise of this book doesn't revolve around three letters of the alphabet - T, S, T one more time, and L. Too Stupid To Live. Let me explain.

This book starts out really fine with our heroine Paige Alexander, in the prologue, throwing a huge (and very amusing) temper tantrum when she realizes just what a no-good cheating SOB the man she expects to celebrate her birthday with actually is. Then it's the first chapter and the book sinks faster than the Sumo wrestlers-only section on the Titanic. Our heroine is conducting a chat on the totallyblackdating.com website, and she encounters this guy that... well, let's just say their conversation is bizarre. He acts like a condescending prick, to be blunt, suggesting that she's sexually frustrated and having issues with relationships and commitments. At one point, Paige tries to leave the chatroom only to learn that somehow he can prevent her from doing so. I don't know about anyone else, but Weirdo Boy here has crossed the line to stalking, and were this an mIRC chatroom, I'd be sending him a nasty program that will disconnect him from the chatroom right away. At one time, Paige tears up because he is really psychoanalyzing her in an unpleasant way. (Frankly, any woman who cries because she feels hurt by some anonymous pixels on the screen - well, that woman obviously hasn't been online for long, I guess.)

But somehow they soon ends up flirting in an "I'm Whitney, you're Ja Rule" way (a crack ho and an adulterer - how unintentionally amusing!), and she agrees to meet him in person.

She refuses to tell anyone that she is meeting him in a last moment rescheduled meeting to pick him up at the airport. And she's taking him home with her.

She still wants to meet him when he sends her emails like this one: "I thought I was dreaming when I saw you. It was like staring at a real life goddess among the desert sands, and I am humbled to be accepting your invitation to be with you at the party. Thank you for leaving me your name and mobile number. Someday soon, I shall call you." If any guy that sends me an email like this, my first thought would be that he must be some perverted fiend with a fetish for Siegfried and Roy role-playing games. And what's that nonsense about leaving a stranger her mobile number? Mind you, she has one .jpg photo of his - gorgeous, of course - and apparently that is enough for her to give up her privacy.

Needless to say, Mr Weirdo AKA Rhys Langston turns out to be a complete weirdo whose gift of a statuette to Paige causes poor Paige to be hounded by nefarious villains. The statue, you see, holds clues leading to some lost treasure. But when this finally happens, I am too numbed by the sheer titanic amount of stupid I have been reading in the last hundred and fifty pages.

Okay, so Paige is as smart as a toe fungus and a tragic CSI case waiting to happen. How about Mr Weirdo? Don't get me started. His arrogance and condescending chauvinism go beyond obnoxious - try "I'd rather be dancing with the Talibans than to spend another minute with this jackass" insufferable. When he meets Paige for the first time, he actually grabs her for a kiss before telling her smugly, "You needed this." When Paige is going on in a ridiculous "all men are freaks and controlling bastards" rant, he silences her with a condescending "Am I to understand that you don't want to merge with another human being?" How about you merge with a pair of scissors, Weirdo Boy? He is also irrationally jealous of the other men in Paige's life. In short, Mr Weirdo is a tragic kind of irony: he is exactly the sort of weirdo one should fear when it comes to online flirtations.

The other men in Paige's life aren't any better. Paige's boss crosses the line more than once when he pries into Paige's personal life and even dictates what she should or should not do in her personal time. There seems to be no personal boundary between Paige and the people around her. Everyone, it seems, has a free pass to meddle in Paige's life and Paige seems incapable to making a decision without everybody knowing about it and pushing his or her opinion about it to Paige's face.

Paige isn't a pleasant heroine - she's often shallow, superficial, and she has Desperate For Men tattooed on her forehead. But compared to the mass amount of moronic in this story, she is just small potatoes. There are more offensive TSTL plot twists and turns to get worked up over.

Bizarre lucidity-free conversations (this is pretty much everything that comes out from that Mr Weirdo's mouth) and a plot that is crippled from the start when the heroine starts acting terminally stupid all contribute towards Smitten being a book that is so bad that it is... well, it is unimaginably bad. Let's just leave it at that.

Rating: 20


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