by Roxanne St Claire, contemporary (2005)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-6277-7
Roxanne St Claire's third novel for Pocket, Killer Curves, reads like a book written by someone who has taken too much the romance novel formula to heart. It's like, say, an academic who is so caught up in her theories and hypothesis that she sometimes forgets that these theories may not relate so well in real life. The characters in Killer Curves feel right when it comes to their characterization and personality if we compare them to the Formula, but if they are supposed to be, say, people that I may come across in real life (in short, believable characters), they won't make the cut.
For example, romance readers should be used to the premise that romance heroines will always find any opportunities to fling themselves onto the altar of martyrhood, whether they enjoy this premise or not. In Killer Curves, the heroine faces several dangerous situations and throughout these situatuons, she never considers seeking help or even quitting her silly masquerade. When someone turns up dead, instead of being worried for her life, she starts blaming herself for that person's death! The hero isn't any more believable in his motivations either. So all in all, this book is one that gets too involved in being technical and faithful to the Formula but at the same time getting too detached from believability.
Celeste Bennett is a blue-blooded society lady. Of course, since this is a formulaic novel, that means that Celeste is unhappy, her mother is unhappy, and her stepfather and Celeste's fiancÚ are, of course, evil proponents of skank and dank (although Celeste, of course, doesn't know that they are evil). One day Garrett "Beau" Lansing, a NASCAR racer who works for her biological father Travis Chastaine, shows up and asks her to donate her kidney to Travis. Travis' kidney, after all, has failed. Celeste believes that Travis impregnated Celeste's mother and took money to abandon his girlfriend, therefore Celeste is not keen to give a kidney just because Beau says so. But because Celeste is at the end of the day a romance heroine and biological daddies always end up the real deal while foster fathers are always evil and what-not, she decides to get hired by Beau under a false identity so that she can get to know Travis better. Since Beau has to fend off an ex-girlfriend (she is now married to an important dude who can ruin Travis and Beau if he wishes to), the story then decides to have Beau and Celeste pretending to be lovers so that the Other Woman will stay away. Then someone wants to kill Celeste. I wonder when Travis will drop down dead because nobody seems to remember that his kidneys are failing.
Travis is a misogynist jerk who treats women like objects but Celeste keeps trying to find reasons to keep being around him. She panics after the first time she encounters her mysterious stalker but she then insists that she's staying put and not going home. And later she will blame herself on the flimsiest of reasons when someone turns up dead. Beau learns of the reason why Celeste isn't keen on helping a father whom she believes abandoned her for money but he insists that she does what he says anyway because he says so. And then when she is around the place trying to know Travis, he doesn't try to faciliate the reconciliation of those two as often as he tries to seduce Celeste. And when he's getting close to seducing her, he then remembers that all he wants from her is her kidney (for Travis, of course, and not because he wants to eat that kidney or something). As for the villains, how suspenseful can it be when the very obstacles to Celeste's relationship with Beau are already revealed to be nasty and skanky the moment they show up in the story?
This story has so many contrived coincidences and character motivations that make sense only if I assume that these characters are automatons programmed to act in accordance to some predetermined actions (heroine must always be a martyr willing to endure all kinds of life-threatening nonsense for the sake of daddy and blame herself when things go wrong, for example) that are "right" only in Romance Novel Land. Because of this, it is hard for me to get into this story because everything about it feels so much like the author mapping out her plot outline to me among the pages of the book instead of telling me her story. If the characters in Killer Curves behave even a little like people with common sense, this story may be more enjoyable. But if the characters have common sense, Celeste won't be jumping through hoops just to find a Daddy to love even when things are getting too dangerous for her, Beau will be looking for other candidates to give Travis a kidney instead of wasting time on Celeste, and this story won't be as long as it is.
There are some great insights into how NASCAR and the world of car racing work, which makes Killer Curves an interesting book to get into. It is too bad that the story doesn't do the setting much justice.
This book at Amazon.com
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