Miss Lonely Hearts
by Charlene Teglia, contemporary (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-031-2


Miss Lonely Hearts is a story of love, intrigue, mistaken identities, and... oh, just pass me the aspirin.

Cassandra Adams will stand to inherit lots and lots of money should she get married. Naturally, the person who will get everything if she doesn't, called Riley the Bastard here, is not going to let her get married that easily. He has already sabotaged her previous two relationships - the last coming to a halt just one month before the wedding - so Cass is now determined that third time will be the charm. After losing her fiancé, she quickly loses her job. She also has no savings and therefore, she is now officially a romance heroine.

Broke, unemployed, and desperately needy to get married - the deadline is only two months away - our heroine does what sensible people in her shoes will do. What do you mean, get a job? You are such an unromantic dweeb. No, Cass decides to get a mail-order husband, despite being worried in the first chapter that she may end up losing her money to an unscrupulous husband.

The problem here is that Ms Teglia has me completely confused over the heroine's motives. Cass says that she needs to be practical. She says later in the story that she also wants the inheritance. But at the same time she talks about wanting babies and a man who loves her for her rather than the money, so why this need to get married in two months? It really doesn't make sense to me how Cass can talk about wanting to be in a relationship where she can find stability when she's running off to find any man willing to marry her. Ms Teglia can't have it both ways. The heroine cannot claim to be practical and looking for a man to love and yet want to find that man in two months time without coming off like a complete twit who is just talking without having any idea what she is talking about. In other words, Cass is a moron.

The hero, by virtue of his gender and stereotypical role as the protector and surrogate brain for the heroine, is of course a far more palatable character. Jason Alexander - not the former child TV actor, I'm sure - is not happy that the male clients of his bar The Last Resort are getting ripped off by an enterprising Miss Lonely Hearts. In his own words, here is how he describes the con:

"Miss Lonely Hearts is an old con. One of the safest, actually. It's small potatoes, hard to trace and usually unreported." He saw he had their full attention, and continued. "Here's how it works. She sees a lonely hearts ad, and picks a victim. She writes love letters to set the coldest heart on fire and sends a picture of the most heartbreakingly beautiful woman you've ever seen. She also confesses to being on hard times and asks for the airfare to join her groom."

Being a former gambler (he won the bar), Jason decides that he is the best person to stop this Miss Lonely Heart. He will lure her in, and once she asks for a ticket, he'll be right there to catch her in the act when she tries to cash in that ticket. Unfortunately, his method of operation is to put an ad and scrutinize the responses he gets, which... doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Won't it make more sense to write to the Miss Lonely Hearts that jilted his buddies, pretending to be a new potential victim? At any rate, guess who replies to his ad.

The story proceeds in a most predictable manner as Cass goes down to Alaska to meet "Alex" only to find Jason pretending to be "Alex"'s friend. He falls for her, so now he wonders how he can come clean to her.

I don't know. Miss Lonely Hearts is one of those stories where the characters behave in ways that are so needlessly convoluted and complicated that the story makes even less sense than it already does. I suspect the author is aware of how over-the-top nonsensical her story is, judging from some of the wry punchlines in this story, but she charges ahead nonetheless right up to the absurd and convoluted explanations about the layers after layers of deceptions and lies. And no, all those confessions and explanations by various secondary characters don't do anything to make this story any more sensible. Unless, that is, the conclusion the author wants to me to have is that Jason is a paranoid loser and Cass is a moron.

File this one under "Too absurd - it's easier to just not bother."

Rating: 19


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