by Moira McTark, contemporary (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-028-8
The cover of Moira McTark's Nothing Stays In Vegas seems rather uninteresting at first but let me tell you, it looks so much more, er, intriguing if you blow it up to 120% of its original size on your favorite ebook reader and have the fellow's chest staring right back at you. Not that I deliberately did this, of course. It was an accident, honest.
"CDRunner" and "CapeGirl" have been flirting with each other for the last two and the half weeks now and they are itching to do all those things they say or left unsaid to each other. Don't worry, "CapeGirl" won't turn out to be a 76-year old man enjoying a joke at the expense of "CDRunner" - they do know each other in real life, not that closely but still, close enough to know that the other person isn't a pervert or a joker. "CDRunner" is Caleb Daniels while "CapeGirl" is Lara Sinclair. Cal is the best man at the upcoming wedding of Lara's sister and what was supposed to be a no-nonsense email correspondence to work out the logistics of his arrival at the wedding eventually blossomed into a steamy online affair.
With this being fiction, it is a sure thing that the participants in the pixel sex affair are good-looking. Cal is a natural hunk instead of a mouth-breathing overweight slob while Lara is gorgeous and doesn't have to lie about her age, weight, or hair color. But then a new complication comes up. Lara's sister Dette slept with Cal about a month ago during a I'm-so-blue get-away-from-it-all retreat to Vegas after the engagement was temporarily called off at that time. Now that the wedding is back on, Claudette naturally does not want the news of her one night stand to reach her fiancé Adam's ears. Because Lara and Dette look similar enough that they can be passed off as twins, Dette wants Lara to lead Cal to believe that he slept with the bride's sister instead of the bride.
So, to recap, Cal now believes that the woman he slept with in Vegas and Dette's sister is now one and the same person. But he has problems reconciling the writer of the emails with the shallow and petty Lara that he made a mistake of sleeping with in Vegas. But the more he spends time with Lara, the more he remembers why her emails charmed him into asking her about her nipples and all in graphic detail. Lara, of course, is all torn up inside as she tries not to succumb to Cal's increasingly persistent attention.
The problem with this story is that, unfortunately, Ms McTark opts to turn Dette into the bitchy selfish sister from hell, which also has a direct result in turning Lara into a pathetic doormat for Dette. Lara is pathetic because she knows she is being used and she is aware of her sister's flaws but she opts to believe that all she has to do is to indulge Dette one more time before she will tell Dette to live her own life. Lara is such a sad enabler that way. At the same time, she is so increasingly worked up with guilt over her deception. Lara really delights in playing the tragic martyr here, I tell you. It's a pity I've run out of medals to give valiant darlings like her.
As a result, both the two sisters come off as unpleasant dysfunctional creatures in their own ways and were I Cal, I will be hailing a cab to take me to the airport and out of the lives of these two gruesome sisters at the earliest opportunity. Compared to the selfish sister and the doormat sister, Cal comes off so sane that he's probably the only character here that is halfway normal. I like how Cal eventually admits that he isn't the best person to judge the Vegas "Lara" because he too was suffering from break-up blues at that time. He is reasonable in such a manner, which is more than I can say about Lara's continuous enabling of Dette's behavior.
The way Ms McTark executes the story and portrays the two sisters makes Nothing Stays In Vegas a story that really doesn't work for me. Perhaps if Dette is a more sympathetic character - if she is perhaps a confused woman who is worried that her understandable indiscretion will ruin her wedding - the story would have worked much better. Instead, the two sisters are unsympathetic characters and their problems are all self-inflicted so I end up not caring whether they will ever work their problems out.
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