I came across a review of this book lately, listing it as one of the best romance novels ever. How did I miss this gem, I wondered, heading to the library website to put in a request. Obviously, I read more historical romance than contemporary, but I’m always looking for something new it seems. How could this go wrong? Alas, I wasn’t that impressed with this book.
We have a group of four friends who get together regularly for drinks and a few laughs – Jaine Bright is the main heroine and her three friends all work with her. One such outing finds them discussing what the perfect man would be and they compile a list of attributes such as faithful, good sense of humor, good looking yada yada…and to top it off, have a 10″ penis. This is all amid gales of laughter so intense that other bar patrons begin to wonder what the fuss is about. Sounds pretty innocent right? (Oh, this book was written way back in 2000 so a lot of things that happen seem very dated now, more on this later.) So innocent that one of the women, Marci, passes the list to someone else and before long it’s a national sensation! I suppose this is possible, but it does strain credibility.
Now, Jaine has her own problem to deal with – her parents are on vacation, and left both their cat Boo-Boo and a precious car in her care which is making her siblings annoyed with her. Her new neighbour is a pain in the ass – he comes home at odd hours, makes noise slamming doors and looks generally sketchy. Turns out, Sam Donovan is a detective and he’s none too impressed with Jaine either. Naturally this means that sparks fly between them fairly quickly, even more so after she accidentally sees him naked through his kitchen window and “her first thought is to run right over to his house “to audition as his mattress.” Let’s just say, I guess he measured up! Their insta-lust is the focus for the half of the book, and it’s surprising that it moves along so quickly on Jaine’s part since she’d sworn off men after three failed engagements!
The list is gaining all of them instant notoriety, but there is one person who is extremely angry with them over it and we get their viewpoint from time to time, before this anger devolves into violence and one of the women is killed. The focus of the book shifts to the race to find the killer, and Sam has to do everything he can to protect Jaine and her friends before the killer strikes again. Will he save them in time? Will Boo-Boo be collateral damage? Will the classic car in the garage be trashed? Stay tuned.
As I said, this is an older book and doesn’t stand up well in today’s world. Jaine and her friends discuss sexual harassment at their workplace as if it were a normal thing, and even joke about it which today comes off badly. None of them have cell phones, and Sam has to wait ages for a document to download on his computer. The biggest issue is the identity of the killer, who is (spoiler alert) a transgender person whose mother had been a less than stellar parent. It’s all treated as such a cliche and would never be written as such today, I’m quite sure. Add to that, some of the quips that are meant to be funny just come off as patronizing:
“Know why PMS is called PMS?” “Don’t you dare,” she threatened. “Only women can tell PMS jokes.” “Because ‘mad cow disease’ was already taken.”
“I’m not holding you against your will; I’m holding you against your car.”
“You’re the worst kind of trouble,” he snapped. “You’re marrying trouble.”
In the end, I suppose Ms Howard was aiming for a Sex and the City vibe, but it just didn’t work for me. It just wasn’t perfect.