The Seductive Impostor
by Janet Chapman, contemporary (2004)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-8629-3

Janet Chapman's The Seductive Impostor reminds me of those early Christine Feehan novels, with its over-the-top alpha action man hero and an equally over-the-top victim waifish heroine who just has to bury herself deeper into the metaphorical grave with every action and speech of hers.

Rachel Foster isn't a victim, she's not a Victim either, she's a full-blown all-caps VICTIM. Let's see: five years ago her father shot her mother and mother's lover before eating a bullet himself. Now the rightful owner of Sub Rosa, the house that Rachel and Daddy Oh Daddy designed for Dead Momma's Lover, has returned and Keenan Oakes needs Rachel's help to get the house in running order. Just in time, Dead Daddy's letter surfaces to inform Rachel that Daddy Dearest had stolen millions of dollars worth of art and jewelry and many of these are stashed in Rachel's own house! So now Rachel has to come up with some plans, and you know how these idiots can be: she has to return the stolen items back to Sub Rosa without letting anyone know (I guess calling up Daddy's old friends to take these goods off her back is out of the question) and this involves her navigating a labyrinthine catacomb-like maze leading to Sub Rosa in the dark. While she's suffering from an injured knee. I tell you, some people are begging to be killed slowly and painfully. Meanwhile, she also must keep her Attorney General sister in the dark of their father's actions as well as to make sure that this sister's career isn't tainted by any scandal resulting from their father's getting too friendly with firearms.

Of course, she crashes and burns faster than a house made of matchsticks caught in a firestorm, resulting in Kee having to spend lots of time tending to darling injured lil' Rachel. Kee is a super agent, a treasure hunter, rescue operative, and McGyver all rolled in one with a protective and territorial streak that comes off more suffocating than romantic. He also has a little creepy midget masquerading as a daughter for Rachel to mother (what's the number for Social Services again?) as well as a posse of nondescript buddies named Buy My Book, Buy My Book, Buy My Book, Buy My Book, and Buy My Book to fit themselves in already cluttered scenery. By coincidence, Rachel's sister also makes an appearance, and her name is also Buy My Book.

The plot of The Seductive Impostor is as much dependent on the heroine making really stupid and often bizarre decisions as external conflicts. Because Rachel is a walking disaster magnet, Kee and the Buy My Book posse are always running after her to clean up her mess.

There are two possible outcomes from a book like The Seductive Impostor. One is that it will be prime guilty pleasure material, the way Shannon McKenna and her over-the-top Neanderthals and the braindead bimbos that love these men could be to some readers. But Ms Chapman lacks the polished narrative style of Ms McKenna or Ms McKenna's way with pacing and sexual tension to pull off the guilty pleasure thing. Her prose is often awkward and even choppy at places, the dialogues feel stilted, and the pacing feels off.

The other outcome is an over-the-top badly-plotted book that falls short of being campy to save itself, which is unfortunately what this book is. When the few moments of entertainment come from me laughing at the author's plots, when I'm not groaning in pain and wishing painful deaths on the braindead heroine, I really can't say that I have a guilty pleasure in my hands.

But as I've said, I've had the same reaction to those early Carpathian books by Christine Feehan too, so if you devour those books like special Godiva chocolates that can never pile on the pounds on your hips, don't let anything I've said stop you from running out and buying this book. Do note though that this book seems to be a start of a long-running series, so if your penny is already stretched on Christine Feehan's concurrently running six hundred different series, you may want to just borrow this book from the library or from a good buddy to test the waters, so to speak.

Rating: 57

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