Miami Attraction
by Elaine Overton, contemporary (2010)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86158-3


Mikayla Shroeder is a bestselling author of a book that is a runaway success in the Christian market. However, she has a secret: the fiction she wrote about this woman who fell into hard times only to soldier on and discover a better life for herself is somewhat autobiographical. Mikayla was once a stripper until she was nearly killed by an obsessed fan. Today, she lives like a hermit, fearful of a man's touch and yet selling her presence in talk circuits as a guru of some sort.

Her dog Angel is in serious need of training, let's just say, and after running out of people she can hire to babysit her dog when she is on the road, Mikayla decides to approach Dusty Warren, a well-known vet who is also called some kind of "dog whisperer". For Dusty, it is love at first sight where Mikayla is concerned, and he will have more success applying his dog training methods on her than on her dog, heh. But as you can imagine, Mikayla's past will catch up with her soon enough to threaten her newfound happiness with Dusty.

Dusty is a pretty likable hero. He is in danger of being too one-dimensionally perfect but Ms Overton wisely introduces his father in the second half of the story. Dusty's relationship with his father gives our hero some much-needed cracks in his otherwise too-perfect personality and lets Dusty come off more like a human being than some superhero. However, I personally his romance with Mikayla resembling too much of a shrink's session with a patient. While it is amusing that Dusty has more success applying his dog-fu on her than her dog, I don't know. The whole thing is too much like some "heal the woman of her trauma" drama rather than a healthy love affair.

And even then, it's a bit hard to sympathize with Mikayla since she's actually done so well for herself. What, she can't see a shrink? Instead, she seems content to wallow in misery and self-pity, and this behavior becomes tedious when she keeps at it for so long. Even when conflict rears its head late in the story, her reaction is to remain mired in inertia, let the bad guy win, and sabotage her happiness with Dusty because she is ashamed of her past. Dusty is willing to accept her past, but she rejects him nonetheless because she is so hysterically dramatic about being ashamed of her past. You'd think she uses her private parts to launch missiles into countries in the Middle-East or something judging from how much she flagellates herself for shaking her jelly for the Washington.

And this is where I have a big problem with this story. Mikayla sells herself as a successful author of a Christian inspirational fiction. But nowhere in this story, not even when she is in trouble, does she behave remotely like a religious person. She doesn't utter a single prayer in this story, much less attend a church. It is one thing to be an accidental bestseller and be thrust into the limelight, but to exploit that success for a few years? Since Mikayla is not depicted as a religious person here, the unfortunate implication is that she is exploiting faith to prolong her fifteen minutes as well.

This is where things get confusing, because Ms Overton can become quite heavy-handed with the message of healing and moving on in life. And yet, she seems to have overlooked this inconsistency in Mikayla's actions - our heroine shows plenty of shame about her past as a stripper, but she shows no remorse or guilt about selling her fans a fantasy that she herself has not yet attain. If I were her fan, I'd feel more betrayed by the fact that Miss Holier-Than-Thou here is not a Christian survivor like the image she has laid claim to in the last few years than I would be by the fact that she was once a stripper. An honest stripper, if you ask me, is more preferable to a hypocrite who makes money by claiming to be someone she is not.

Ultimately, this is where Miami Attraction loses me. The writing is clean, the story is readable, but the heavy-handed message about redemption and healing somehow fails to address some of the more glaring inconsistencies in the heroine's ethics. As a result, I'm more confused than entertained by the story.

Rating: 71


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