Heart's Desire
by Monica Jackson, contemporary (1998)
Arabesque, $4.99, ISBN 0-7860-0532-7


Heart's Desire is one book I'd trash silly if not for the whole over-the-top farce and knowing humor that tell me this book ain't taking itself too seriously. I mean, Brent Stevens, while waiting for Kara Smith to come out of her bedroom in some sexy slip of a lingerie, forgets about her when he turns on the sports channel on TV while waiting.

Or when the villain contemplates on ways to kill his soon-to-be-ex wife.

That would be much slower and deliciously agonizing than the pyrotechnics he'd planned. Charboiled Tiffany. Sidney stuffed the last of the sandwich into his mouth and giggled. Too bad he couldn't do it. The neighbors would probably complain.

In fact, the cast of this novel probably deserve some VIP seats in a Jerry Springer special. The plot is beyond campy - it's something Jackie Collins would probably wish she has thought up. Let's see, Kara Smith has been raised in some weird religious sect and she is now probably the last sexy 30-year old virgin in the country. But having fun is the least of her problems - she has a score to settle with Congressman Sydney Eastman, that SOB of a father who dumped her mother and her into a life of miserable poverty while he moves on to be a high-flying crooked politician.

Her mission? Get into his team and find evidence to ruin him. But too bad, she not only ends up getting - uhm, ruined by handsome Congressman aide Brent, she ends up getting tangled up in the dusty, musty skeletons in the Eastman family closet.

Meet Tiffany Eastman, the long-suffering alcoholic wife who accuses Kara of sleeping with Sydney, not knowing, of course, that Kara is Sydney's daughter.

Dante, Kara's half-brother, hits on her.

Jenny, Kara's half-sister, loves Brent to the point of being absolutely neurotic.

Only Taylor, the next-door psychic gal, retains her dignity throughout this whole Dysfunction-o-Rama Extravanganza.

Throughout it all, Brent and Kara agonize over their cheating on Jenny, but heck, their clothes can't just stay on. Sydney schemes and plots like a bad Bond villain, and everyone else humiliates himself or herself for my perverse, voyeuristic pleasure.

And do I have a great time doing that. Really - as bad as this book sounds, it is very good in providing instant laughs and campy fun. The author doesn't spare her main characters, she never hesitates to let me know that, "Yes, Kara and Brent act so silly at times, don't they?" The dysfunction goes over-the-top, and the plot is really something best described as out of this world. It's not pretty, but I love it because for that: it doesn't pretend to be pretty.

While the Eastman clan may just shock Bill Crosby into a heart attack, there's no denying that the writing sparkles with unexpected wit and humor. The characters, no matter how low they stoop or how laughable their actions are, never actually degenerate into being outright unlikeable (maybe it's because there's no way I see them as real people).

Thus, when a book makes dysfunction a hoot of a read, like Heart's Desire, it can't be too bad.

Rating: 79


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