Maggie By The Book
by Kasey Michaels, contemporary (2004)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 1-57566-882-3


I really like that name, Lady Twitters. I wish I'd thought of it first. It's a good thing that I am a nice and sweet humble lady, nothing at all like that Lady Twitters, or I won't believe Ms Michaels when she says that nothing in this book is about me, er, I mean, the actual romance genre.

Maggie By The Book sees Kasey Michaels continuing to skewer the romance industry and fans, only this time reviewers - online reviewers - are included in the fun. Ms Michaels insists that fiction is not to be confused with real life, but I'm sure we readers know better, right? The result is pure fun. The only downside is that the satirical elements of the story are fast becoming more interesting than the characters' stories. There is probably a middle ground where Ms Michaels can expound on the satirical elements in her story without diverting the reader's attention from the main characters, surely, but this middle ground is nowhere to be found in this book.

Where we last left off in the first Maggie Kelly book, Maggie Needs An Alibi, bestselling historical mystery author Maggie Kelly's hero Alexandre Blake, the Viscount Saint Just, has left the pages of her work-in-progress along with his Sancho Panza, Sterling Balder, and poor Maggie has to deal with dead bodies as well as two fictitious Regency characters determined to experience what life out there have to offer. In Maggie By The Book, Maggie heads off to a We Are Romance (WAR) convention. Saint Just tags along, confident that he can win the top prize in the cover model contest. But when the WAR convention turns nasty and a reviewer ends up dead (ouch), everyone is a suspect - romance authors, reviewers, editors, agents, everyone.

Saint Just is in heaven. He is, after all, a splendid detective, if he may say so. Now if only he can solve this whodunnit as well as sabotage Maggie's blossoming relationship with a police officer (even if he isn't so sure as to why he wants to do that), life will be just dapper.

A running joke on the way Americans and Brits say "lieutenant" aside, this book is rife with plenty of oh-so-wicked skewerings at everything about the genre. It's a hoot. Of course, thin-skinned readers who don't get the picture and are right now foaming at the mouth about "respect" are better off approaching this book with caution, but romance readers who keep even a little tabs at some of the trends and happenings in the genre in the last two years or so will have fun with Ms Michaels.

But take away the satirical skewers and what's left are rather mundane. Maggie is actually the least interesting character in this book, with her reticence and snappish attitude towards pretty much everything making her more of a trial on the nerves than a compelling lead character. Saint Just is arrogant, often exasperatingly so, and Maggie seems to bring out the worst in him. Saint Just and Maggie can really bait each other like children and when they are together, they often get on my nerves. On his own, Saint Just has his moments. He just needs to stay away from Maggie. I still love Sterling Balder plenty, though. He is such a clueless sweetie-pie. Why isn't he the hero and the object of everyone's affection in this book?

Even if Lady Twitters isn't all about me - bummer, there goes all my diva aspirations - Maggie By The Book is still plenty of fun. I'm just not sure whether this book is fun for completely right reasons, as the story is entertaining despite the dull main characters instead of because of. But what the heck, fun is fun, right?

Is it too late to change my name to Lady Twitters?

Rating: 84


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