And Then He Kissed Me
by Patti Berg, contemporary (2003)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-82006-4

People, please bear with me as I try to figure out this ridiculous book. We have our heroine, Juliet Bridger, ex-sexy starlet turned bestselling wacky mystery author. Her husband is in jail for not reporting how he actually used his money to the proper authorities and now he is plaguing her with phone calls. Of course, contacting the police is out of the question. Never mind that the man is in jail and it is probably easier to just change one's house number. Romance heroines don't do stupid things like that. Then one day, she snaps. She's fed up of paparazzi stalking! Of the money! Of the caviar! Eeeeuw, caviar!

So what she does is to drop everything (yes, that includes credit cards and money) and runs off to where she can be anonymous forever. In Plentiful, a town where everybody knows each other and there is no such thing as your business being your own, a town where old ladies accost strangers and conduct interrogations before declaring that they dislike you. A perfect place to be anonymous, definitely. And to be anonymous, she wears a pair of Kate Spade sunglasses and Jimmy Choos high heels. I don't even know what Kate Spade and Jimmy Choos are until the author keeps bringing up these names and now the names are stuck to my mind forever. What happened to good old shoes produced in third-world sweatshops?

She encounters the small town doctor, Cole Sheridan. Naturally, she loses her money and has to sign up to be the housekeeper to nanny his five - count'em - five nieces. These nieces are hellions, apparently. It is so tough to call home and get a few million bucks sent her way - no, it's best to take care of horrible children instead. While she's at it, maybe she can climb down my toilet bowl and enjoy the scenery. After getting a taste of good old Republican small-town Mother As The Only Fulfilling Career You Will Ever Have fun and goodness, our heroine decides to renounce the millions, the house, everything, to live in this smalltown where at least her ovaries will be put to good use forever and ever.

I sympathize with Juliet, I really do. I mean, who wants to live a life of fame, wealth, and glamor? Like that man standing before the guillotine will say, "It is a far better world if Gwyneth Paltrow retires and takes care of her husband's three stepkids." It is too much to kiss a bundle of hundred dollar notes to soothe the pain of being maligned in a stupid tabloid or get Julio the poolboy to ease the pain in a more intimate manner - no, best drop everything to chase after noisy and ill-behaved children! And as for Cole, I don't know. Lucky bastard - he gets a nanny that also gives out. Is there a male equivalent of such nannies I can call or something?

If you actually find this story plausible, and you believe that a life of being a mother forever to annoying children is the most fulfilling existence ever, as opposed to having more money than one can spend in this lifetime, buy this book and Patti Berg will kiss you for making her Superleader debut so successful. Me, I am more interested in the romance between the villainess and her man. Nicole's everything Juliet is not - capable of far-thinking planning, independent, devious, cunning, and opportunistic. Of course, Nic gets punished for being jealous of Perfect Sissy Juliet, bummer.

Oh, and Ms Berg, please. It's been three years since an "ex-President" left the White House. The stains on a certain intern's dress are dried up already. Get over it, sheesh. Making fun of the ex-President is like mocking dead people - there's no glory in it, especially when Ms Berg is too lily-livered to even name this "ex-President". And especially when I have a strong suspicion that should the ex-President's wife does appear in a romance novel, she'd be cast as the bitter, over ambitious career ho ex of the hero.

And Then He Kissed Me is illogically plotted, the characters are derivative stereotypes, and the whole execution is as fresh as dead fish left under the sun for two days. In the end, Juliet says, "... for the first time as long as I remember, I got to be the person I created, not someone created by the tabloids, or by a rich ex-husband, or a movie director." No, hon, you're just a lousy creation from a stereotype-friendly author. If mothering five brats and living in Wyoming's own Salem's Lot is worth sacrificing the millions, the mansion, the glitz, and the glamor, you may have found yourself, but you're still the biggest fool in the land.

Rating: 58

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