A fast paced plot and zany humor are a couple of good things about Hot Date, but the heroine was so silly, unthinking and zany that she had me grinding my teeth all through the book. A touch of the zany makes a character fun, but Grace Lamb needed a life coach.
Grace Lamb grew up in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania next door to the Griffin family. During their childhoods Nick Griffin spent quite a bit of time getting Grace out of scrapes since she acts first then thinks later. After high school, Grace married Robert and moved away, while Nick stayed in Wrightsville and joined the police force. As the book begins, an old Volkswagen bus comes zooming down the road and plows into Nick, who is in his police cruiser. Who’s driving the bus? Grace of course. Grace has decided she doesn’t love Robert, so she’s filed for divorce. Grace wants to get back to her roots, so she’s back in Wrightsville, where she plans to get a job...or something.
Grace moves in with Toby Priest, her gay friend who owns an antique store. It doesn’t take too long before Grace has persuaded Toby to go to Boston to visit Charles, the guy he’s been e-mailing. In the meantime, she plans to clean up the cluttered antique store. Toby agrees and tells her that there’s a very important person coming to pick up and pay for an antique desk and she has to be there to meet him Grace agrees and after Toby leaves, she sets out to clean house. Her method is to toss everything out the window, which doesn’t set well with the neighbors. Nick comes by to talk to her and they have sex. Then Grace decides she will start a business as a gardener and in the rush of planning, she forgets Toby’s customer. This causes her to have a few pangs of guilt and worry over how she’s going to repay Toby – not to mention how she’s going to fix the Volkswagen bus she wrecked (it’s borrowed).
However, things may turn around. Philly Barbarosa comes by looking for a collection of antique sex toys. Toby’s aunt had promised to sell them to Sal Beneditto, Philly’s boss. At first Grace can’t find them, but she sends Philly on while she promises to look for them. As she’s looking, Nick comes by, they have sex, they search for the sex toys, and find them. Then Grace gets the bright idea that if Sal is willing to pay a large sum for the sex toys, someone else might pay more.
By this time, I was sure that Grace was born without any shred of common sense. Nick alternates between worrying about her, and being bemused by her. Me – I’d be running away, far, far away. Grace isn’t just ditzy, she is an idiot. However I had half the book remaining and hoped Grace would settle down.
Grace finally fixes up everyone’s love life, including her own (poor Nick) and ends up happily every after. However I closed the book thinking it won’t be long till she burns down the store, gets taken to meet Jimmy Hoffa, or decides she doesn’t love Nick and runs off somewhere. I guess you could say I didn’t like her – no sir, I didn’t like her at all.
Other writers can give us ditzy characters who are charming and likable, Jennifer Greene is the best there is with this kind of character. However, Greene’s characters have a touch of self awareness that Grace doesn’t have. She just plows through life, doing and then thinking while all around her, people have to dive in and rescue her. Good thing Nick is so self-sacrificing. Poor guy, I can’t help but think he’s going to wake up one morning and want a life.
Hot Date is a hard one to grade. I liked the story, I liked the other characters and I like the pace and style. But I could not stand Grace. The story gets a B. She gets an F. Let’s call it a C+.
-- Ellen Micheletti
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