Take Me To Heart
by Deborah Fletcher Mello, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-473-0


Take Me To Heart is Deborah Fletcher Mello's debut romance novel, so maybe I should cut her some slack. But I can't help feeling that she should stick to the "write less, plot more" adage if this book is anything to go by. Ms Mello tries very hard to follow what seems to be the Arabesque bestselling formula - which among other things, encourages the author to include as many intrusive family members as possible in her stories to make at least six or seven sequels from a book - but her plot is threadbare and her characters have ridiculous one-dimensional prejudices to drag the conflict to meet the word count.

Dexter Williams like Marguerite Cole for some reasons only he will know as she is cold, annoying, and harbors an irrational mistrust of the opposite sex. And that's it for plot, really, because apart from some family subplots like Dexter's brother coming out of the closet, there is nothing much left in this story. Dexter and Marguerite date, she breaks up with him on some flimsy and irrational premise, he woos her back, rinse, repeat. Meanwhile there are familiar matchmaker family members and sequel baits circling these two like sharks waiting for a chance to get their own books. While Dexter has to be commended for having the patience and perseverance of a saint - or an idiot that keeps running into the wall until he bleeds all over, come to think of it - I can't help thinking that a day at the shrink's office would have done wonders for him and his recalcitrant girlfriend.

Ms Mello's writing style often veers from poetic to overly-verbose and back again. I find myself liking her writing style (then again, I have a weakness for melodramatic opuses that are done right), but her debut novel is sorely in need of stronger characterization, less clutter from secondary characters, a romance that doesn't rely too heavily on secondary characters to bring the two people together, and a plot that isn't fueled by something as flimsy as the heroine's continuous stubborn prejudice against men just because she's silly enough to let her going out a few jerks in her past to define her entire life.

Rating: 53


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