Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Order of Protection," Kathleen Creighton

The Chick: Joy Lynn Starr (yes, that's her real name - and she has siblings with worse: Jimmy Joe and Sammi June apparently show up in previous novels), a five-foot-nothing forty-something wannabe mystery novelist, believer in psychic powers, and all-round selfish, air-headed moron who can't get anyone to believe that her fashion-reporter friend has gone missing (what?? A cop won't believe that her friend is an "infant soul" because she's an Aries? What is this world coming to?).
Shady Past: 3 miscarriages, 2 failed marriages, and a partridge in a pear tree.

The Dude: Scott Cavanaugh, a sheriff's deputy who is charged by Joy's brother Roy to take care of his "ditzy sister" (thankfully, his own words), to keep her from flying off the handle. He's also a father to a 14-year-old son who insists on acting like he's ten.
Shady Past: His ex-wife divorced him because she couldn't stand the attention he paid to his job and not to her -- but still calls him once a day to get him to do her housework.

The Plot:

Joy: My psychic powers tell me my friend is in trouble! WHY WILL NO ONE BELIEVE ME?

Scott: You are a moron, and manipulative to boot.

Joy: Moi? That's impossible! *sexy eyes*

Scott: ...I feel a sudden urge to investigate your concerns! *investigates* Looks like your friend shacked up with a Latin mafioso's son, and is probably on that private island that they own, that is heavily guarded because they have more money than God, along with several shady ties to international terrorism and drug-running.

Joy: Great! Now I can go rescue her all by myself because I'm way too cute to get hurt and the cops are big stupid meanies!

*island explodes*

Joy: Oopsie, my bad!

Scott: I want to love you, but you DO SUCH STUPID THINGS!

Joy: I want to love you, but my karma's out of whack!

Scott: We found your friend, but let's let the FBI handle it. Just to make sure... *handcuffs Joy to toilet*

Joy: Handcuffs are no match for my totally natural, non-manipulative, perfectly-morally-okay wiles. *sexy eyes*

Ryan, Scott's teenage son: Will you be my mommy? *unlocks cuffs*

Joy: *rescues friend*

Scott: Wow, and they would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you meddling woman!

Romantic Convention Checklist:

1 Hot Cop

1 Mafia Connection

2 Moments of ESP (fer real)

3 Heroine Rescues by Hero

1 Romantically Lackluster Ex

1 Southern Drawl (used intermittently)

The Word: I had low expectations for this book to begin with -- this was literally a book I picked out at random from a black garbage bag my Romance Literature prof provided for his class. Last week: romance comics. This week: harlequins! Or to put it more accurately, Series Romances - mine's a Silhouette Intimate Moments. The writing was actually a bit better than I was expecting -- I dunno, I guess I was expecting something egregiously bad that would make it instantly recognizable as different from Single Title Romances (i.e. Nora Roberts - Lisa Kleypas territory). As I kept reading, though, I definitely saw a LOT of flaws.

First of all, Creighton uses similes way too often - such as ALL THE TIME. I don't mind a good simile, and I don't mind people who use them all the time if the similes match the mood or the job or the thinking patterns of the character in some way (i.e. an accountant describing a mysterious hero like an "algorithm she couldn't solve" or something). Creighton's, however, are just plain inane - she plasters lame, obvious, or weird similes as descriptions all over the place (worst example: "her heart melted like a chocolate bar in the sun"), which has always been an indication to me of lazy writing.

Secondly, her CHARACTERS. As you may have guessed from my previous descriptions, I absolutely despise the heroine. She's an annoyingly self-centred nutjob. I guess it must be one of my pet peeves, but I can't stand stories where some feather-brained twit with no forensic experience defies everything that trained law enforcement officials tell her to do and ends up saving the day. I HATE those. I don't mind characters who contribute to a case with their natural intelligence or ingenuity, but Joy puts herself in harm's way for absolutely NO reason other than selfishness.

Her character (who, hilariously, wants to write mystery novels but hasn't bothered with ANY research other than watching CSI once a week - yeah, good luck with that honey) believes her roommate is missing. Fine. She has this sort of extra-sensory intuition that her friend is in trouble, and her friend said she'd call but she didn't, so Joy is worried. That's fine and reasonable. Her concern is understandable, as is everyone else's skepticism.

However, she INSISTS on rescuing her friend, Yancy, herself - even after things blow up to the point where nearly every law enforcement agency in the country is looking for the same thing she is: she doesn't care that she has no training, she doesn't care that she's putting her best friend's life at risk, she doesn't care about the hot cop who cares about her - this book is all about her and her own pathetic problems. Wah, wah, her daddy died, wah, wah, she's had miscarriages - boo hoo, that totally gives her an excuse for doing inexplicably idiotic things that endanger other people's lives to satisfy her own personal missions, because if she isn't the one who saves her friend, personally, by her own hand, than by some measure she's failed. I have no idea where such a narcissistic character acquired the delusion of grandeur that convinced her that she is in a better position to save her friend from a CRIME SYNDICATE other than FBI agents and cops.

Joy's not only annoying, however - she's poorly written. All her plans for rescuing her friend are: "Wander onto restricted Mafia area. Play stupid. Jiggle my boobs. Use my psychic powers to grab friend and ride into the sunset on my magical unicorn." Not only that, but the author TELLS us about Joy rather than shows us - and she tells us poorly. We're told Joy believes in psychic powers - but it only really comes up when it's important. It doesn't affect anything else she thinks about, and seems to be put there just to be a sickeningly cute irony ("Oh! She believes in spirits but she doesn't believe in love! How adorable!"). We're told Joy is an aspiring mystery writer - yet she doesn't show any interest in writing, any creative thought, or any desire to research. If I was an aspiring mystery writer and found myself being babysat by a cop for three days, I'd be asking a shitload of questions - who knows when I might get another chance? Nope - Joy's "writing" aspect only comes up when it's convenient to the storyline, and then vanishes. There is no aspect of her character that SHOWS us she's a writer.

The worst thing, though, is that we have to be TOLD that Joy is 42 years old. I didn't know she was 42 until she explicitly said so 50 pages into the novel. That's 50 pages of me believing she must be in her early twenties because there's no way such a basketcase who acts so irresponsibly and is so self-absorbed could survive to be 42 and still have friends. All the descriptions that Creighton lavishes on Joy show her to be younger than the book tells us she is - and that's a BAD thing, by the way. Joy is descriptively compared to babies, children, and kittens (at least 9 times in the novel she's compared to a kitten - ugh) -- all young, small, vulnerable, cute things. Give me a break. Either she's a cute, vulnerable, doe-eyed naif or she's a go-get'em rescuer, Creighton. You can't have both.
The only redeeming factor of this novel is Scott -- because, for one thing, he actually calls Joy on her sexually manipulative bullshit. From the get-go, he outs her for using the seductive gestures she "unconsciously" uses to have men do what she wants (like looking out at people from under her lashes - a move she uses about once every two pages). Secondly, after the first time that Joy breaks her promise to him to not get into trouble by grabbing onto a ludicrously arbitrary loophole, Scott isn't retarded enough to fall for it again. My favourite part of the novel is when he actually handcuffs her to a toilet to keep her from running off and ruining the FBI's stakeout, because he knows that if left unchecked, she'd go and do it because (say it with me) it's all about her and no one else matters because she's the one with the boo-hoo personal demons.

Still, he ends up loving her anyway, and I can't imagine how. Joy Lynn Starr disrespects everyone she meets and has no consideration for other people's training or intelligence and endangers other people to fulfill her own needs and everyone just shakes their heads and chuckles, "that's our Joy, it's just her nature, ain't she a cute free spirit?" Gag me with a tarot card. D+.

No comments:

Post a Comment