Extremely Hot

Jennifer Apodaca
2007, Contemporary Romance
Brava, $14.00, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0758214510

Grade: F
Sensuality: Hot

I selected Extremely Hot to review because of its heroine: a radio show host who warns women away from bad boys, telling them to hold onto their money and emotions and take care of themselves. This seemed like very good advice, and since radio show hosts are often such polarizing figures in real life, I thought she might be interesting. Unfortunately, she proved to be pretty standard issue for romance novel heroines – unable to hold out against that wounded bad boy for any longer than it takes him to snag her undies and pull them down.

Ivy York is the aforementioned radio show host. Her program, The Economic Sex Hex is very popular among women and some men. She's got good advice to give and a background that makes her message believable: Ivy herself was victim to a man who wanted money more than love. Unfortunately for Ivy it wasn't her money – it belonged to her clients. And when he ran off it with it, she got fired and could no longer work as an accountant. She turned to the media and presented herself as a Messiah for the swindled.

One of Ivy's regular on-air targets is Luke Sterling, also known as the Urban Legend. Luke has a treasure hunting business, usually tracking down stolen objects for insurance companies. As the Urban Legend, he is known for prowess in the field and in the bedroom. Ivy loves to lampoon him, but she is about to get entangled with him in a new way. Luke is trying to find two small jade figurines, famous throughout history for bringing out the desires of those around them…and for arousing murderous intentions. Luke thinks Ivy is behind their disappearance somehow, and has wrangled his way into Ivy's station, posing as her assistant. And the two of them are suddenly plunged into danger…and desire.

This book has a number of problems, but let's start with the plot: the missing figurines. First of all, the idea of tiny statues having the ability to enhance desires is more than a little hokey in a straight contemporary. This is not a paranormal book, but all of the characters, major and secondary, skip right to believing the jade pieces are influencing them. Second of all, there's the plot. There are a number of conflicts here:

  • The statues are missing and Luke must find them.
  • Ivy and her mother look guilty, but in fact are not.
  • Luke had a crappy childhood and ended up in foster care, emotionally stunted and unable to give anything resembling an emotion to anyone.
  • Then in the military he failed to rescue some comrades which resulted in some residual PTSD and even more emotional stuntedness.
  • Plus, he hates his cousin, who had the love of a mother and yet is jealous of Luke.
  • Ivy's ex stole a lot of money from her clients and was never found.
  • Ivy's mother, Mallory, never knew real adult love and has been on a mission to sleep with any man she could get in order to feel better about herself while at the same time trying her darnedest to repel someone who does in fact love her.
  • Mallory's pathetic neediness and skankitude worries Ivy.

Believe it or not, before book's end at page 320, all of these conflicts have been solved to everyone's satisfaction. Even the redundant or extraneous ones (i.e., most of them). Even more miraculously, all of this takes place over the course of mere days. So much healing and amends-making, in so little time.

Then there are the characters. Ivy, as I said, should be interesting. She's self-made, she has opinions. But she is not. Her show is actually pretty one-note, and her negative obsession with the Urban Legend makes little sense. Also, she repeatedly states that she has experience and talent tracking down financial do-badders, but she fails to find and apprehend her ex on her own initiative.

Luke is even more problematic. He's supposed to be brilliant, but from the moment he sees Ivy, most of his thoughts come from below the waist. Readers who like page after page of lust-thought will love Luke. That's about all he is, besides emotionally stunted. Even his emotional stuntedness is overkill. Does he really need to have had a crappy childhood and PTSD? That the solution to both of these is love is an idea any psychotherapist would laugh at. Ivy is everything he's ever needed and eclipses any other woman he's ever known, in and out of bed, despite the fact that she's sexually a bit naïve. Aren't we tired of both of these notions yet, as romance readers? I am.

And aren't we tired of the words foster care as being shorthand for "Cue the violins, Maestro?" Ivy sighs over and over for Luke – poor little kitten. He was in foster care. As if his foster care parents were more damaging to him than all of the immediate biological family members who fail him repeatedly. They get a pass. Family makes mistakes; they are forgiven. But being in foster care, well that's a horror beyond horrors.

The rest of the cast is merely annoying, compared to these two, although Mallory, the needy, slutty 50-something mom should get a special mention for sheer stubborn incomprehensibility and for opening the book with a Bertrice Small-like sexual encounter.

Extremely Hot is a failure. The mystery is not compelling. The suspense element feels tacked on. Most of the characters are two dimensional and/or annoying. All in all, this one is a waste of paper and should be passed over in favor of better books.

-- Rachel Potter

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