Calder's Rose
by Kate Angell, contemporary/paranormal (2003)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52532-1

There are times while reading this book when I really start to believe that Kate Angell's Calder Rose is a lampoon of Dorchester's overfond tendencies to publish cheesy corny westerns. This debut paranormal contemporary isn't bad, but unpolished writing, one-dimensional characters, and a really annoying heroine make this story a bumpy ride from start to finish.

Shane McNamara writes cheesy Westerns starring his popular Dare Calder. Devin James also writes cheesy Westerns, but her character is Rose Coltraine, a frigid saloon owner. Devin's a woman, by the way. Why can't romance heroines get a nice, sexually unambiguous names like Catherine nowadays, I don't know. I have quite a hard time trying to remember who's the guy and who's not at times. They share a publicist who manages to get them an amazing deal, provided they can write a book starring both their trademark characters. So they now have to live together and try and complete a book in six weeks.

Naturally, they can't stand each other. He's a sex-mad ape who howls at the moon and is all about beer, bars, and tacky shorts. She's a frigid twit who almost had an apoplexy every time she ovulates. Naturally, he plots and writes when the mood hits him, she plots and plots and plots, he wants graphic sex, she is outraged at that suggestion (and that makes her my enemy number one), and I wonder in a time of e-mail, why these two have to even stay in the same house, especially when they have a book to complete in six weeks.

These two are stereotypes, but Ms Angell never succeeds in developing her characters into anything more than mere caricatures. While Shane's ridiculous overcompensation antics make me roll up my eyes, Devin is more unfortunate - she's the unbearably frigid caricature that I really dislike in my books.

Oh, and their characters come to life. As if one Shane-Devin coupling isn't bad enough.

The author has interesting ideas in her story, that can't be denied. Unfortunately, her humor often invites me to take cheap potshots at the main characters. Devin, especially, has a huge bullseye painted at her forehead and in the center of bullseye we have "I Am Ridiculously Frigid, Hit My Shrunken Pituitary Gland And Score 100 Points" written in black ink.

Hopefully in her next book Ms Angell will try to tighten her prose and let her characters be a little more than merely caricatures. Calder's Rose is a flawed and rough debut that doesn't really hint at what the author can really do. Let's see if she can pull a few surprises out of her sleeves in her future books.

Rating: 63

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