Hot Streak
by Susan Johnson, contemporary (2004, 1990 reissue)
Bantam, $6.99, ISBN 0-553-56115-4


Hot Streak was previously published in 1990 under the author's pseudonym Jill Barkin. The book feels even more dated than that, actually. The style of Hot Streak reminds me of a typical trashy Jackie Collins novel (or in shorthand, "so 1985"). The only drawback here is that this book doesn't have the over-the-top sexual musical chairs that made Jackie Collins a prime guilty pleasure back in the 1980s. Then again, trashy and cool seem to be synonymous back in the 1980s, doesn't it?

It is quite amusing to note that Bantam is republishing this book, formerly published by Berkley, just as Berkley is now publishing Susan Johnson's newer contemporary romances. The publishing industry works in strange ways at times, I tell you.

Among the cast of jealous skanks, sociopathic millionaires, ambitious parasites, and industrial saboteurs, we have our heroine Molly Darian. She's, naturally, so beautiful, so gorgeous, and poor. She's engaged to marry some boring guy whom everyone can see right away will turn into a monster when she meets and has a wild fling with Carey Fersten, a hot movie director as well as a hot horse jockey. This is the final proof that this book was published in 1990, by the way. The hero will be named Sam or Holt McKenzie and he'll be an ex-undercover FBI agent Navy SEAL turned smalltown sheriff if this book is published today. Anyway, Molly goes ahead and marries her boring guy anyway, with predictable consequences. Today, she is a single mother when she meets Carey again. Will love work better the second time around?

To be honest, I don't care. The characters here are all cut-out stereotypes playing out their designated limited roles mechanically - the slut, the sociopathic villain, the other man, the kid, the helpless heroine, the overbearing hero - in predetermined plotlines, such as: every skank hates the heroine and wants the hero, every scum male wants the heroine, the usual. The sex scenes are short and far from hot compared to the glitz-lit published by Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins at that particular time period. The seeds for the then yet-to-appear Susan Johnson brand of in-your-face sexuality are here in Hot Streak, but the author is far more intent in faithfully emulating in a most unimaginative manner the formula that made Jackie Collins a bestselling author in her heydays. Not enough campy skankiness, too sober to be farcical yet too ridiculous at the same time to be taken seriously, and with characters as dull as dishwater, Hot Streak is more like a flash in the pan. Which is, come to think of it, just what Jill Barkin's career could be described as, isn't it?

Rating: 53


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