Pillow Talk
by Hailey North, contemporary (1999)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80519-7


What is it about a straight-laced, emotionally distant prim-and-proper man in a business suit that challenges a woman? You know, the sort of challenge to conquer, strip off that suit and all that proper gentlemanly nonsense, and make that man see life as what it is. To make him laugh. To make him love. In fiction, prim and proper workaholics are like latent firecrackers. You light the right fuse and Ka-BOOM! You'll drown in his explosion of technicolored passion. In romances, Mr Prim and Proper is only a mask. Think Sabrina. Think Working Girl. Think Harrison Ford.

Where was I? Oh yes, Pillow Talk.

Parker Ponthier disliked Margaret "Call Me Meg" McKenzie Cooper at first sight. He found her in an expensive hotel suite in New Orleans, the room where his recently-deceased brother usually brought his ladyloves. So naturally Parker assumed Margaret... sorry, Meg his brother Jules' newest mistress (bear with me, we'll throw stones later). He offered to pay her off, but lud, she turned out to be Jules' wife. Parker immediately assumed she was a gold-digging ho because, let's face it, she let Jules, supposedly a rehabilitated fellow, get OD on drugs only hours before (like I said, bear with me). Then Parker dragged Maggie... sorry, Meg along to meet the wealthy Ponthier family, never a more malicious herd of snobs since Alexis Carrington-and-a-million-last-names in Dynasty.

Are you bewildered yet? I sure was in the first few chapters. Things happened so fast - JuleswasdeadMegclashedwithParkerthenmeetfamilyandout
comesJules'dirtysecretsblablabla all in the speed of light in just a few chapters. I had to pause, take a deep breath, go out for some fresh air, then reread the beginning chapters slowly... to... get... all... those... details... pouring out at me like water gushing forth a broken dam.

It didn't help that the book had this soap opera feel about it. Consider Parker's really pathetic love life. One woman, right before they get down to a nice session of tonsil tennis and hide-the-salami, actually whipped out a legal document that would give her sole custody of any kiddie resulting from their horizontal tango and asked him to sign it! (She was a lawyer, you see, she wanted kids and Parker wouldn't commit to a relationship... what happened to the New Orleans sperm bank? Oh yeah, they don't give you the jolly stuff like making babies the natural way). Hmm. I forgive this, however, because at that moment I happened to turn to the TV to ponder about this rather funny and absurd scene, and there was this pregnant woman in a car. She suddenly went into labor, gave a loud Wooooooopppppsssss!!!! and lost her hold on the steering wheel. Next thing you know, the car magically made an L-turn, fly off the cliff and right into the ocean probably dozens of miles away. Then those cute oiled-pec Baywatch lifeguards (did I mention it was Baywatch?) ran slow-mo and dived into the ocean to rescue Mummy-to-be and helped her give birth to boot.

After that TV show I could take anything Ms North threw at me.

But surprisingly, the book actually became better after this boy Gus came along. Gus is Jules' son from a previous marriage, and Meg managed to get Gus to make Parker mellow and thaw. And when he thawed, Parker was amazing. He became a cheeky, mischievous man so different from the growly surly bear-bear in the beginning I began to wonder if someone had snucked up on me and switched the book without me knowing. Parker turned roguishly charming, like wonderful Harrison Ford in Working Girl. His reluctant softening was, to me, a pleasure to read. What I wouldn't do to be 10 years younger and give Meg a run for her money. Okay, okay, 20 years younger. 25 tops.

But what about Meg, you ask? Err... I don't remember much about Meg really, except that she was unfortunately stock-contemporary-romance heroine material. In the onslaught of Parker's sensual awakening, relentless and almost predatory, that poor woman couldn't hold her own in the story. She was okay, a decent character to read about. Her reasons for marrying Jules remained murky to me. Now, back to Parker...

The author's writing style is as uneven as her storytelling. At times she told too much instead of showing. Sometimes there were brilliant flashes of storytelling genius - Parker's first 'family trip' with Gus and Meg and a dog was a hoot. These however, were buried under way too many cliches. Like the forgotten protection during sex. And as much as I love dogs, the dog in this book played strictly as dogs in countless Harlequin/Silhouette categories. He and Gus was to act cute, make Parker human, and scram when Uncle Parker and Aunt Meggie wanted to play patty cakes.

Parker, Parker, Parker, you deserve a better book.

Actually, this book isn't bad, compared to the author's Avon debut Bedroom Eyes which was an uneven patchwork of paragraphs. Ms North's getting better. If she cranks up another Parker Ponthier in a later, and hopefully better book, I'm buying.

Rating: 67


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