What, No Roses?
by Marianne Mancusi, time-travel/historical (2006)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52675-1


Marianne Mancusi's What, No Roses? should have been an interesting story if only because the heroine is sent back in time to 1929 to ensure that the St Valentine's Day Massacre will happen despite the hero's attempts to prevent the incident from taking place. We don't want history to be altered now, do we?

Unfortunately, this is also a big misunderstanding story that is made even more godawfully painful to be read by the heroine being so bloody stupid and irritating as well as the circumstances forcing the big misunderstanding to continue being so ridiculous. I find myself wishing that I can travel into the story with a big tank so that I can turn a massacre into an apocalyptic slaughter of idiots who are way too stupid to be allowed to live.

Okay, stay with me as I describe the plot. This story is set around a time when America and Iraq are trying to prove which country has the biggest and longest missiles. Our heroine Dora Duncan is a junior reporter who is infatuated with the war correspondent Nick Fitzgerald that she works under. One day, Nick is late for a chance to trail a bunch of soldiers as they infiltrate an enemy camp so Dora, who has no experience in this kind of stint much less any experience with self-defense or use of firearms to defend herself, decides to go without Nick. Because Dora is so bloody stupid and clumsy, she gets captured and spends a year as a prisoner of war. When she is released, she blames her scarred face and her incarceration on Nick. Apparently Nick "stood her up" that day in Iraq. I don't know. If Nick were there when Dora turned bloody stupid, they would have both been prisoners-of-war.

So this is the basic premise of the story. Dora blames Nick for what happened to her in Iraq even when Nick has nothing to do with her being a bloody stupid woman. It is not a good thing when I start a story thinking that the heroine is at least three cards short of a deck. Anyway, today, Dora spends all her time wallowing in self-pity when she is not obsessively missing/hating Nick. What, Dora doesn't see any shrink, Ms Mancusi? Or have all the shrinks in the Northern hemisphere given up on this stupid woman?

Anyway, some mysterious Men In Black types show up one day to tell Dora that Nick has joined some intrepid and not-very-nice time-traveling rogues and Nick is right now Quantum Leaping into someone's body in 1929 to make sure that the St Valentine's Day Massacre is prevented. Dora will be Quantum Leaping into the body of Louise Rolfe, the moll of the guy responsible for the beautiful bloodshed, Jackson "Machine Gun" McGunn. The thing is, who is Nick in 1929? Dora believes that Nick, the egomaniac, will surely choose the body of the hottest guy around. But of course, Dora is convinced that Nick cannot be Sam the mysterious bartender fellow, the hottest guy in a sea of fat and ugly gangsters. And this is where my face meets the desk.

Despite a genuinely amusing and adorable early dig at the criticisms levelled by Ms Mancusi's detractors about the heroine in her previous book being too stupid at times, the author soon has Dora behaving even worse than Kat in the previous book could ever been. Dora obviously doesn't know much about the role she is supposed to play - she doesn't even know Machine Gun's first name until she is reminded of it! - and she has no brain-to-mouth filter. "Incompetent moron" is too kind a description for Dora dearest here as she stumbles and trips all the way into discovering things that the reader already knows five chapters ago. What Ms Mancusi is thinking to allow the reader to get ahead of the heroine to the point that the reader has to wait for the shockingly dense Dora to catch up, I will never know.

On the bright side, I like the Rat.

Like the previous book, there are some interesting concepts in the story and an ending that reveals how everything isn't what it seemed to be at first, but this is one shockingly asinine story thanks to it being fuelled 100% to the finish line by the heroine's unadulterated stupidity. I can list down every stupid thing Dora says or does in this story but that would mean that I have to make an entire website and register the domain name killdorathatstupidwasteofflesh.com and I don't think I am up to the task.

The thing is, Ms Mancusi is aware that Dora is stupid. Every time Dora realizes what a lamebrained dumbass she is, she will pretty much giggle and I can easily imagine Ms Mancusi gesturing at me to go, "Awwww! How cute!" like I'm in the studio audience during a taping of Full House or something. The last straw is when Nick explains why he didn't show up that day in Iraq and Dora pretty much goes, "Awww! I've been so silly! Hee-hee-hee!"

Hee-hee-hee indeed, I suppose, if I'm the kind of person with the patience to humor and indulge grown women who act like stupid little girls incapable of learning from their mistakes or make reasonable decisions. Unfortunately, I really have no patience for stupid people and I certainly don't enjoy reading about stupid people doing disastrously stupid things while giggling about what Silly Bessies they are in the process. All I can say is that I wish I have known beforehand that the author intends to write a story about a heroine being as dumb as a doorknob and passing it off as a cute and endearing story so that I will know enough to gingerly drop this book into the contamination bag generally reserved for Katie MacAlister's books instead of having to put my brain through its personal Bullets Over Baghdad wartime masterpiece during the excruciating three hours I spend reading What, No Roses?.

I find the author's first book interesting and entertaining despite Kat being not exactly the sharpest knife around, but this time around, Marianne Mancusi goes too far in trying to pass off a heroine's terminally braindead condition as something adorable and cute. No, no roses for her this time around, I'm afraid.

Rating: 08


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