Smart Mouth
by Erin McCarthy, contemporary (2004)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0595-3


I'm not too impressed with Erin McCarthy's debut Brava effort Bad Boys Online because her inaccurate descriptions of website maintenance and other Web-related matters seem to suggest that the book is set on another planet that is actually more backward than a typical third-world country. Smart Mouth however is a, shall we say, less high-tech story with a familiar "heroine at the wrong place and the wrong time being pursued by an action hero" premise. The result is a more enjoyable effort that showcases the author's voice and sense of humor more effectively.

Our FBI hero Derek Knight is pursuing a red Ford Taurus that contains some Very Important Evidence left behind by his informant regarding some nefarious price-fixing scheme thingies by a pharmaceutical conglomerate. Why he doesn't pursue Microsoft and get them to lower their prices or fix those stupid bugs that cause my PC to hang six times last month, I'll never know. Sorry, I'm still annoyed over my PC problems of last month. Our heroine Reese Hampton is a reporter who is looking and hoping for better and more exciting things in her line of job. In town to cover a wedding, she happens to rent a red Ford Taurus that is the very same one that Derek is tearing the town after. Through a series of missteps and misadventures, these two end up working together.

On the whole, this book is enjoyable, if not too original or earthshattering. I have my doubts regarding Reese because there are times when she acts like a typical clueless but hotheaded nitwit that cannot follow the hero's sensible instructions. Still, she never crosses the line to outright idiocy and despite some contrived aspects of her personality, she has a nice sense of humor that makes her a nice foil for the oh-so-dour Derek. For an FBI action man, Derek is actually more beta than the typical tortured alpha male types. He has his baggages, but he comes off as a very serious but level-headed man. Ms McCarthy ought to be more careful with her hero's speech pattern though, because there are times when Derek doesn't sound like a guy as much as he is what a woman expects a guy to sound like. In other words, Derek isn't always too convincing as a tough-talking FBI guy.

In Smart Mouth, Erin McCarthy tries to recapture those oddball romantic stories starring an amateur investigator paired to someone who knows his job ala Scarecrow and Mrs King and she succeeds quite well with this book. I'm not really sure why this book is marketed under the Brava line as I don't find it particularly erotic in any way, but I do know that I have plenty of fun reading this fast-paced and humorous lite-suspense romance story.

Rating: 81


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