The Passage
by Alex Lawrence, contemporary (2000)
Onyx, $5.99, ISBN 0-451-40944-2


Spoilers present

Pop quiz time. Do read this excerpt from The Passage, the writer formerly known as Jodie Larsen's contemporary romance debut. It's from page 7.

David turned just as his youngest niece suddenly grabbed his pant leg and tugged. "Uncle David, you've got to help!"

In the three-year-old's plump little hands lay an irridiscent hummingbird. Although the sunlight gleamed on its beautiful feathers, it was completely still. Kneeling beside her, he stroked her fine blond hair, taking the bird from her as he said, "Erin, there's nothing I can do. This birdie has already gone to heaven."

The first tears fell from her huge blue eyes as she pleaded, "But you can save him! Use your special powers. Please make him fly!"

He softly shook his head, "Honey, I don't have special powers. I can't make him fly again."

She seemed to consider his words with disbelief. "In Sunday school they taught us that the saints are God's helpers. Daddy says you're a saint. That means God will listen to you!"

If you go "Aww, how touching!" do go out and grab this book. The rest of the book is just as touching.

If you, like me, feel your skin crawl at such blatant, corny sentimentality, avoid this book like a sealed test tube containing the Ebola virus.

Obviously someone forgot to tell this author that a romance does not mean substituting substance for over-the-top, cloying sentimentality. Also, creating a disgustingly perfect, one-dimensional hero does not mean this romance reader will swoon in excitement and conveniently overlook the fact that this slim, 243-paged book insults my intelligence. The heroines - yeah, heroines - are pathetically one, uhm, half-dimensional. Okay, quarter-dimensional.

Fiftysomething David Thomas is Suffering, boo-hoo. His wife Angie suffers from severe agoraphobia ("Oooh! No sex life! That hurts!" - am I sarcastic or what?), so he takes off alone to some remote river/rustic wilderness (I wonder which holiday resort sponsor this moment) where he sparks with the woman that once rescued him long, long ago - Sierra.

The dialogues are cloying nauseous and melodramatic to the point of being hilarious. Love is a glowing halo, eyes are blue and vivid, hair is vibrant and flaming, and of course, David is all the superlative masculine adjective you can think of. Most insulting is the fact that I'm suppose to take for granted that Sierra loves David unconditionally (without showing me any reason) and she willingly walks away when Angie miraculously Recovers from her Inferiority to be the Perfect Wife for our Hunk God, and David goes back to her.

Again, someone forgot to tell this author that the romance genre isn't purely idol-worship of the Male Virility. At least to me. I'd like my heroines a bit fleshed out and less of tweety birds, thankyouverymuch.

The romance rings hollow, the dialogues make me cringe, the characters make me feel nauseous in their cardboard glory, and the whole condescending Worship the hero and life will be fun overtones make me feel sick.

"In the grand tradition of Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller..." And for once, this promo blurb is dead-on accurate. Take that as a warning or recommendation for all it's worth.

Oh, and no, there's no physical adultery involved, for those who are picky about this sort of thing.

Rating: 01


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