Paradise Bay
by Victoria Alexander, contemporary (1999)
LoveSpell (Romance Of The Millennium), $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52350-7

Paradise Bay is a place loosely based on the island of Kiribati, one of the first places in this world that will see sunrise every day. I am skeptical of the whole premise, and I rub my hands in anticipation as I detect potential land mines the author lays all over her story, believing that she will step on one big bastard and blast this whole story to kingdom come.

Me, nasty much? Please, she shoots herself in the foot enough already in her inept romances for Avon.

To my delight, disappointment, I don't know, Ms Alexander deftly stepsides most of the land mines. Dang if Paradise Bay isn't a rather good read. The author fumbles with her descriptions - for example, I never get exactly what Paradise Bay is like - and characterizations, but nonetheless, this one's kinda charming.

The first land mine explodes in pages one to sixteen, where we have Daddy Dearest's Personal Assistant relating Daddy Dearest's confusing family tree to him. "Your daughter, as you know..." she will go, and I grit my teeth. Someone tell the author that this redundant exposition style of writing is never a sign of good storytelling. It doesn't make sense to have an acolyte tell the Pope all about God, and it doesn't make sense here either.

Land mine number two goes kaboom when Daddy Dearest has to force his daughter-in-law-to-be Trish Taylor to Paradise Bay under false pretenses so that he can stop her marriage to his son Elliot. Huh? And any woman who has to be forced to go to a sun and fun island doesn't deserve to live, if you ask me.

Land mine number three explodes when hero Jack Evans - Trish's brother-in-law-to-be, don't ask, Daddy Dearest married a few times and it's a long story - is described as a recluse-cum-nerd-cum-playboy. Can someone tell me how a recluse can also be a playboy? The only way I can imagine this is if he has some discounts at Madam Fleiss' Paradise Bay franchise, but that wouldn't exactly be "playboy", more like Charlie Sheen, right?

I am fearing the worst by chapter five, because I am sure Jack would be a complete mess of a character and Trish a complete nitwit superditz.

Trish starts complaining about the lack of modern amenities, but she is soon sparking to Jack. Jack is sure that Miss here just wants to turn Paradise Bay into a horrendously overdeveloped ersatz tropical resort, but he soon warms to her. The temperature of Paradise Bay rises a few degrees.

Incidentally, I'm miffed that the author neatly sidesteps the Ugly Tourist trap. Jack at one point realizes that his desire to keep Paradise Bay backwards and technology-free a selfish notion on his part, because like it or not, the natives deserve to enjoy modern amenities too. Just because he wants to play Tarzan doesn't mean everyone on Paradise Bay is his Cheetah the Chimpanzee sidekick. While I'm miffed that I miss a chance to go on a soapbox, I must say I really like this part of Jack.

Trish is more problematic, especially when Elliot turns out to be an obvious snake nincompoop (landmine number four goes boom). Then again, come on, she's a romance heroine. Enough said. She's better than some I can mention though.

Trish and Jack have a decent thing going, and that's good. While Paradise Bay isn't the exotic vacation it promises to be, it is decent, readable, and just slightly inept and not there to make it a slightly above average read. Perfect for rainy days.

Rating: 76

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