by Rochelle Alers, contemporary (2002)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-271-1
Ah, those beautiful, perfect people in Rochelle Alers' novels! As if I can miss those golden eyes of our heroine Dana Nicols or her perfect thighs and perfect breasts and our hero Dr Tyler Cole's broad shoulders and manly ruggedness, Ms Alers has every character noticing our main characters' broad shoulders or golden eyes or mega breastage, from the wife-beating man who was just roughed up by Tyler (this scum just has to point out to me how broad Tyler's shoulders are - huh?) to everybody else in the town of Hillsboro, Mississippi. And in case I still miss those subtle hints, the author also has the main characters ogling each other - perfect breasts, perfect lips, I want, I want - or even thrashing in bed dreaming about those perfections of the other person.
Gosh, with so much perfection in this story, it's a wonder how this book doesn't come with brochures of your friendly neighborhood cosmetic surgeon.
And then Tyler and Dana have the cheek to wonder aloud why the other person attracts them like nobody else. Duh! It's like the prom queen wondering if she is beautiful. People like these are annoying, and I suggest they be forced to eat fatty foods like the rest of us and learn that cellulite can be sexy too.
Despite the annoying overkill of physical descriptions in this book, Homecoming is better than the author's last few books. Her last few books are tepid, plotless, and feel as if the author phoned in the stories from a phone booth in Ulan Bator. In this case, the characters are better fleshed out than usual, and the story seems to be going somewhere.
Dana's family is screwed up. When she was eleven, her father killed himself while he was in prison serving a life sentence. Daddy killed Mommy and burned the house down, they say, and that was because Daddy was angry at Mommy for being a slut. (Aren't Mommies always evil? Why can't romance heroines marry their Daddies? Isn't life unfair?) Now she is back to her hometown, and she's going to find the truth behind the rumors once and for all. Since she is an investigative reporter, that should be easy, right?
Well, there's the sexy doctor, for once, who distracts her with chapters and chapters of tepid lovemaking. Someone is trying to kill her too - or maybe they want to kill him? Either way getting to the truth of her mother's death is not going to be that easy.
Dana, despite coming off like a plastic Barbie doll thanks to the surfeit descriptions of her breasts and thighs and everything else, is actually a pretty good heroine. She's neurotic, but she comes off as a real person with a well-fleshed past and insecurities instead of just another walking fun bag of codependency issues. Tyler is supremely dull as the super rich, super talented, super super doctor, but he has chemistry with Dana, so that counts for something, I guess.
I really like the author giving the dead mother Alicia Nichols her own side of the story though. Alicia is not presented as a typical cartoonish slut, and it is suggested that Daddy Beloved wasn't entirely blameless either. Unfortunately, the author uses a tired Evil Woman plot device as a resolution to this story.
Are Arabesque books ever going to escape the Shadow of the Evil Woman? Mommies are evil, best friends are sluts after your man... sometimes it's hard to believe that women write these stories rather than those members of the Angry Male Supremacy Clan Against Castrating Career Women Who Don't Know That Their Place Is In The Kitchen.
Still, I like the characters' relationship and their interaction with each other. They may be dull and the author is selling me their flawless physical appearance way too hard, but the author seemed to have waken up from her hibernation and put some effort in actually plotting a story. That counts, I believe, as something.
Despite its flaws, Homecoming is a well-constructed typical prodigal daughter story. It's eminently readable and pleasant, if a little on the dull side. Come on, Ms Alers, a little cellulite won't kill. Really!
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