Looking For Trouble
by Anne Stuart, contemporary (2000)
Harlequin, $6.99, ISBN 0-373-20172-9


Looking For Trouble is an omnibus edition containing reissues of Anne Stuart's old category titles Cinderman, Cry For The Moon, and Chasing Trouble. Even wearing my Anne Stuart Zealot Fan Club T-shirt, I am hard-pressed to pass off Cinderman and Cry For The Moon as good stuff by this author.

Cinderman tells of a reporter, Suzanna Molloy, stumbling upon a Top Secret Science Project and getting dragged into the fun when the researcher Dr Daniel Crompton starts becoming invisible and spies on her bathing. This story is not only formulaic the way any invisible man story would be, the hero has no - NO - sense of humor at all. All he does is to lust after the heroine because hey, she makes him feel horny. Nice guy. Let me get my stungun and Daniel, you and I can do the tango. In hell, buster.

Suzanna is smart when she is NOT in Daniel's company. With Dan, her brain melts. I have no idea what she sees in Dan, or what he sees in her either. But any woman who gets the hots for a dour man who mocks her after he boinks her, all with the misplaced gravity of a mortician, well, she can't be too smart.

Cinderman may have exploding cars, but that's the closest it gets to sizzling hot passions.

Cry For The Moon may describe my reaction after reading this dire, dull, and contrived story. What's worse than a tortured, whiny hero? A predictable tortured, whiny hero. Marielle Brandt and her daughter moves into an apartment full of reclusive eccentrics, and naturally, her hormones gravitate towards the only decent-looking guy around, Simon Zebriske. Naturally, predictably, boringly, Simon tells her she doesn't belong here and demands that she packs and leaves. Naturally, Marielle has to fall for this yet another humorless dullard.

People start getting "accidents". Simon wonders and acts like the most obtuse idiot around. Then again, he's so self-absorbed in his own pathetic existance I shouldn't wonder. Marielle tries to investigate, but she has this tendency to burst into tears at the most advantageous moments (ie when Simon is sniffing around her hindquarters). Ugh.

The eccentrics in the apartment consist of the usual stereotypes - the slut, the mysterious old biddy, the nerdy excitable young man... zzzz...

Next!

Thankfully, Chasing Trouble restores my belief that Anne Stuart hasn't been kidnapped by aliens. Sally MacArthur is a rather ditzy heroine who hires James Diamond, PI, because she thinks his name sounds perfect for a PI. She has a fetish for drunk, handsome, down-on-his-luck PIs, in fact. She asks James to find her missing sister and some priceless heirloom in the AWOL sis' possession, and James reluctantly plays along. He has to pay the bills after all.

Turns out that Sally's case is serious. But James can handle it, as well as he can handle all the sterotypical images Sally tries to mould him to. I have fun reading about his disgruntled bemusement and Sally's airhead attempts at fibbing her way out of trouble.

Only when the author makes cheesy concessions to the Stupid Rules (ta-da, turns out our heroine, despite having an ex, has no sex life, and she thinks herself unprettty too despite having those legs - gag) do I roll up my eyes. I'd like to think I can appreciate a non-virginal heroine who is aware of her self-worth and beauty, and I hate it when I'm told to hate beautiful women who have lost their hymens because they are not "pure, heroic" or any of that rubbish. Otherwise, Chasing Trouble is pure fun.

My suggestion to readers not wanting to waste their money? Save the $6.99, and go Xerox the last story instead.

Rating: 42


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