Cutting Loose

Susan Andersen
August 2008, Contemporary Romance
HQN, $7.99, 379 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373773048
Part of a series

Grade: D
Sensuality: Hot

For years now I’ve looked to Susan Andersen as one of the more reliable authors out there, with a deft hand with a contemporary romance on which I could rely. In other words, if I needed something for the beach, a book by the author would always be a good choice. Based on this first entry in her new trilogy, that may be changing.

First and foremost, you’ve got a lame-ass set up for the series. It follows the format patented by Nora Roberts: Three young woman of dramatically varying temperaments come together in youth and remain the bestest of friends in adulthood, with each finding her own romance in her very own book. Okay, we’ve all been there, yet there can be comfort in familiarity. But in this case, it feels so forced – as girls they meet a wealthy, independent older woman who takes them under her wing and subsequently leaves them a huge estate – and the characters themselves so broad-brushed and clichéd that the whole thing feels formulaic and sloppy.

Jane Kaplinski is the daughter of histrionic and alcoholic actors, so, in the pop psychology world of this novel, she is overly uptight and rabidly anti-alcohol. And, that, fellow readers, is as deep as it goes. She works as a curator at a museum, so, naturally, she is in charge of cataloging the many treasures left behind by that kindly old lady. Since part of the estate is an old mansion, the young women hire a construction firm to handle the renovation.

And that is where uber-hot Irish American Devlin Kavanagh – one of many uber-hot Irish-American Kavanagh brothers – comes in. (And, yes, every single Irish-American-family-with-many-siblings cliché is included.) Jane sees him at a bar at their first meeting when he is drunk due to a combination of alcohol and jet lag and pegs him as a loser from that point on. They’re forced to work together in the confines of the mansion where they verbally spar with each other, eventually have sex, and, in the blink of a Dr. Phil show, solve all Jane’s psychological problems and get their HEA.

Frankly, I kept thinking of Jayne Ann Krentz’s terrific Trust Me as I read since Jane’s background is so similar to that of heroine Desdemona. But there is a world of difference between that novel and this one and the unmistakable similarity only helped to make that fact even clearer.

Another big issue? I rolled my eyes (literally) every single time the villain appeared. Improbably enough (and trying to stay away from spoiler territory here), he has a job in one of the most crowded fields around – you know, the kind where there are 150 applicants for every available job – that also requires specific and extensive educational credentials. Our guy, however, seems to have absolutely no interest in the job for which he must have spent years preparing and wants instead to be a professional poker player. Even worse, in his internal monologues he “sounds” just like Tony Soprano, including frequent use of the phrase “whataya”.

Yuh-huh.

The notes at the end of the book indicate that the next installment won’t be due until summer 2009, something I find puzzling, because a rush to finish a book is just about the only excuse I can come up with for this one. Needless to say, I’m out for the rest of the trilogy after this improbable and clichéd first entry.

-- Sandy Coleman

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