Charmed And Dangerous
by Lori Wilde, contemporary (2004)
Warner, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61367-3


Great chemistry between the characters, shame about the plot. I really enjoyed Lori Wilde's full-length debut with Warner, License To Thrill, but if the follow-up Charmed And Dangerous is any indication, maybe giving a wide berth to anything even remotely related to missing expensive thingies won't hurt the author's career. The characters are fine in their own right but the plot is a mish-mash of everything that gives Harlequin lines a bad name.

Good twin Madeline Cooper is worried when her bad twin sister Cassie disappears with a valuable Cezanne. The FBI agent David Marshall suspects Cassie, the museum staff he enlists to aid him capture the thief Peyton Shriver, believes that Cassie must have bought Peyton's sweet seduction and ran off with that villain along with the Cezanne painting that David used as bait against his superiors' orders. With his ass on the line and on the flimsiest of evidence, David believes that Cassie has betrayed him and sets out to track what he believes is the new Bonnie and Clyde all the way to Spain. I'm sure you can guess how he meets Maddie. Maddie is finding it hard to believe that her irresponsible twin sister has tried to be some Sydney Bristow creature but she isn't surprised that Cassie flops at that because Maddie has been cleaning up Cassie's mess since the sisters were teenagers. Maddie decides to tag along with David (or, if he's not cooperative, do her own thing to find Cassie) and wacky adventures ensue.

I'm sure the author wants to be funny and wacky and she doesn't like to be cumbered down with inconvenient concepts like logical logistics in her story. Fine, I understand. But things are probably not working out so well if the supposedly determined and capable David comes off like a total reject of Quantico playing at being an FBI agent using a plastic badge and water pistol. It is also hard not to become skeptical when "wacky" soon becomes "too many coincidental twists and turns" or "one serendipity too much". How do I tell the difference between an author's deliberately wacky story and the author's not really having a clear outline of her plot and is therefore making things up as she goes along?

But the characters have great chemistry and rapport, which goes a long way in salvaging the story. The characters are stereotypes at the core but the sexual tension is palpable and both characters dish out often terrific zingers. While many of the things they do may not stand under the scrutiny of Logic and Sensibility, these two characters are equally matched in many ways, with both parties giving as good as they receive. If their romance seems rather melodramatic at times, at least they are doing a good job in showing me that they are in love. Maddie and David offer plenty of fun good times even with my reservations about the story they are stuck in.

At the end of the day, Ms Wilde may not be too successful in integrating the over-the-top aspects of her story into the flow of things without jarring me from the story, but she does a great job in persuading me to sit back, relax, and go with the flow even if the flow sends me straight over the waterfall and down into the loony pit. Who knows, maybe one day she'll get better and give me a really great book, zany madcap loonybin adventures and all.

Rating: 79


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