Desert Isle Keeper Review

What Do You Say to a Naked Elf?

Cheryl Sterling
January 2005, Fantasy Romance
LoveSpell, $5.99, 326 pages, Amazon ASIN 0505526190

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Warm

Wow. What Do You Say to a Naked Elf? is one of the best surprises I've had in a long time. It's hilarious, sexy, romantic, and inventive. The awful (but admittedly attention-grabbing) title caught my eye first; I couldn't help thinking that romance had sunk to a tacky new low. Then I read the back cover and discovered that the hero was a Legolas look-alike a huge plus in my book. Although the cynic in me expected the worst, I decided to give it a try. I started laughing out loud on page four, and continued laughing as the book kept me up for most of the night.

Jane Drysdale is stuck in an annoying, dead-end job at an insurance agency and has a love life that's going nowhere fast. In order to make ends meet, she's been moonlighting as an independent consultant, doing home parties selling sex toys, lotions, and sexy lingerie. One night she's driving along a Michigan highway with her car full of orders and merchandise, when a bunny appears in the middle of the road. She swerves to avoid it, hits it anyway, blows out a tire, and gets catapulted through a portal to a different world. A platoon of six men come to her rescue, pulling her from her burning car and even helping her save her Rubbermaid containers full of "goodies." At first, she thinks she is being kidnapped, until she realizes that she's not in Michigan anymore, Toto. The season is different, and her captors all have pointy elf ears. It turns out she is in the magical world of Lowth, where there are fairies, dwarves, elves, goblins, and dreaded sandobbles (don't ask). Then Charlie, the one carrying her, admits that he's actually a whelphite - half elf, half fairy. She demands proof of this, so he shows her his wings, and she faints dead away.

At first, Jane is actually their captive, since they consider her responsible for the death of the bunny (who was actually a shape-shifting elf). She is to be put on trial, and Charlie is her lawyer. After being imprisoned in a castle, she discovers that she has odd new powers and can open solid walls. She escapes, and after meeting with the elf king, is put under Charlie's care.

There is actually a lot that goes on, and I'd hate to spoil any more of it, but the gist of it is that Jane's arrival on Lowth is no accident, and her ties to the world are very important. As she's figuring out how she fits into society (and trying to prove that she's innocent of vehicular elficide) she can't help falling for Charlie. He's such a stuffy, uptight elf-lawyer, but she knows that he has deep passions simmering under the surface - and she finds out that his wings are a serious erogenous zone. Charlie, for his part, can't help falling in love with the crazy earth woman. He can't understand what she's talking about half the time, but she makes him crazy in the best possible way. In addition to the fairytale love story, there's action, adventure, and humor.

It's hard for me to pick one favorite thing about the book, but the humor surely rates near the top for me. I think I had forgotten that a book could be this funny. Naturally, it's all in the eye of the beholder; I've read dozens of books in the last few years that have shot for this kind of humor and failed miserably. But I started busting a gut when Jane referred to Charlie as "Keebler," and continued laughing my way through the entire thing. Many of the laughs come from Jane's wry comments, most of which are pop culture references that make sense only to her. Her approach to her difficult situation was to laugh and joke about it, a way of thinking that I could really relate to. And if you've ever been the mother of young children, you know what it's like to spend the day cracking jokes that only you can "get." Much of the humor is also derived from the sheer inventiveness of the plot. An elven lawyer? A midsummer's eve fertility rite enhanced by earthly sex toys? I can't believe someone thought this up, but I'm sure glad she did. And if there's a funnier passage than this one (when Jane wonders about the fate of her sex toys) then I'd love to see it:

Where were her boxes? Had they gone through he portal, or been dumped alongside the path? Fat lot of good they would do her now, unless her jurors were sexually frustrated house elves with disposable incomes.

Obviously, humor isn't everything. Nothing can work in a romance without a worthy hero and heroine. Jane and Charlie come through in spades. Jane has her wise-cracking going for her, but she's also intelligent and flexible, adjusting quickly to her new life and making the best of every circumstance. Charlie, on the other hand, is just sexy and fun. I've seen many a stuffed-shirt hero lightened up by an enthusiastic, hoydenish heroine; but I've never seen a stuffy elf lawyer before. I thought maybe there was some law that they all had to carry crossbows or magician's staffs. Anyway, I absolutely adored Charlie, and I could see why Jane did too.

Also illuminating for me was the discovery that I could have a paranormal "niche." Generally, I tend to avoid most alternate reality stories, even those by well-acclaimed authors. Futuristics aren't my cup of tea because the worlds generally don't strike me as romantic. I have zero interest in monster books. Vampires completely disgust me; blood is just gross, and I don't want to hear about anyone sucking it. Ever. And werewolves are also a real turn-off (the rest of you are all welcome to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine). But sexy blond elves? Count me in. As Jane would say, Hoo-boy.

Few things give me greater pleasure than recommending a book by a brand new author. In this case, I can recommend with a vengeance. Who cares if the title is embarrassing? Read and enjoy. I can hardly wait for Cheryl Sterling's next book.

-- Blythe Barnhill

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