The Perfect Summer
by Luanne Rice, contemporary (2003)
Bantam, $7.50, ISBN 0-553-58404-9


Luanne Rice's brand of Hallmark soap opera doesn't blend well with her attempt at writing romantic suspense. What may be otherwise a standard daytime TV show script of a wife learning that her husband has secrets turns into something more insidiously sappy and artificial because the characters speak and behave as if they are reading aloud lines from a home insurance commercial.

Bay McCabe is the kind of woman that can only be found in Justine Bateman movies. Her husband cheats on her, but for some reason Bay is shocked when this husband Sean disappears one day, leaving behind a messy trail that suggests that the banker has stolen quite a lot of money from his workplace. But hey, things aren't so bad when Sean asks a man to fix his boat and this man turns out to be Dan Connolly, her teenaged crush. How cute. So now Bay, Dan, his daughter and her children all bond and pose artfully for the final sunset and love scene that will put to shame most of the insurance commercials out there ("A perfect family... a perfect house... thanks to Acme Insurance!").

But it is really hard for me to finish this book, because the characters... eeuw. For example, when the kids discover Dad's infidelity, the son actually tells Daddy, "Don't do it anymore, Dad. We need you more than she does." I find it hard to imagine that eleven-year old kiddies will talk this way. Or Dan's lovely courtship of Bay:

"Are you still in love with the moon?"

"Yes, the crescent moon..."

Excuse me while I try not to throw up.

Then there's the annoying use of periods and pauses between dialogues in a showy and transparently fake way. Characters tend to trail off in their sentences... like this... no doubt for dramatic effect in case we readers fail to understand the subtle romanticism of the author's sugar-drenched overwrought prose. The suspense is prolonged by the usual silly character that keep secrets until the late in the story, when this fellow can't blab fast enough then.

Filled with unnaturally sage best friends and children and perfect boyfriends that come out of the blue to provide respite from our Courageous Heroine's Time Of Despair, The Perfect Hour sees the author departing from her old style and moving into full time scriptwriting for Hallmark's Mediocre Hour Marathon. In love with the crescent moon indeed, hmmmph!

Rating: 48


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