Got Your Number
by Stephanie Bond, contemporary (2001)
St Martin's Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-97690-9

Don't be fooled by the back blurb and the label Romance on the spine of Got Your Number. If it's the conventional boy-meets-girl stuff you are looking for, you won't find it in here. But if you are looking for a story of an unlikely friendship between a bad girl and her debutante cousin as they embark on a road trip, you'll probably be as pleased as I am with this story.

I mean, forget dysfunctional neurotic heroines. Roxann Beadleman has a scarlet past filled with ex-boyfriends, good or bad, but she makes no apologies for having lots of fun in college. Her cousin is the virginal Angora Ryder, who, in a brief moment of defiance, looked up to Roxann in college. She even learned how to give blow jobs from Roxann (and a... well, never mind). But these two women went their separate ways when Angora's mother intervened, and that was it.

Until now. Roxann is now a member of a covert rescue organization that specialized in rescuing abused wives from their spouses and relocating them to new lives. Never mind that I have no idea how a simple covert group can do this: do they have ties to passport and ID forgers? How about birth certificates and driving licenses? But never mind, let's not nitpick too much. This isn't a Tom Clancy novel about espionage. Roxann's problem is that she may be stalked by the husband of a woman she rescued recently. A cop, Detective Joe Capistrano, is sniffing at her hindquarters. When her house is trashed, Roxann decides to take off to attend her cousin Angora's wedding before she seeks refuge with her colleagues.

Angora is happy. She is marrying her doctor... until he dumps her at the altar for his ex-girlfriend. When she realizes that Roxann is heading for a road-trip, she begs to be allowed to tag along, and so they both go. Destination? Their college for Homecoming. And both of them secretly hope of reuniting once again with the dashing Professor Carl Seger, whom both have a big crush on. Oh dear. And oh dear when Seger turns up dead and Angora becomes the prime suspect.

Of course, Roxann, the unabashed member of the Madonna/John Hughes/teen angst generation, has to have a lousy childhood to excuse her non-virginal past. Silly readers who have an unhealthy fixation on a woman's state of asexuality, I hope you're happy. (Then again, maybe it's just in the name of "character development". Whatever it is, I'm still sighing.) But it's so nice to read about a woman who actually has a decent, real past with mistakes and achievements all in one go. Angora too is a well-rounded character, somewhat, who may be a virgin but she isn't above being tempted to be naughty. Her mom would be shocked if she learns how Angora passed Seger's exam back, back in her college days. Roxann and Angora's friendship and soul searching are the best things about this story. When the ladies click, they really do click. And in a genre where women tend to be portrayed as adversaries rather than friends, Got Your Number is a welcome find.

But like the author's debut full-length contemporary Our Husband, I have problems with the male character that becomes the center of our heroines' fixation. Carl Seger is an oily, lecherous scum, much like the dead husband in Our Husband - what did the two women see in him? Of course, I can testify that sometimes women may idealize first loves in their mind to the point of exaggeration (sometimes when I think back, I have to go "What am I thinking?!!"), but it is hard to see a hardened veteran like Roxann being taken by Carl's oily act for so long.

And oh yes, the romance. Remember Joe the Detective? He is like a minor character in this story, popping up in the beginning and the last few chapters and that's it for Joe. "Romance" here is a rushed sex scene, and an even more rushed romantic closure. And don't get me started about Angora's "romance", which mostly happens offstage. It is as if the author just has to tack on the so-called romance just to appease readers. Are romance readers so gullible? I can't help feeling rather insulted by the way the author throws in the towel. If this story has done away with its pathetic attempts at throwing in some disposable romantic moments, I would have given my recommendation without reservations.

I can forgive some of the lousy decisions Angora and Roxann make in this story. I can even forgive some implausible aspects of the story. But please, no half-hearted romances. Don't tease me like that.

Rating: 85

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