2008, Contemporary Romance
HQN, $6.99, 330 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373772149 Part of a series
When I read a very short summary of Elizabeth Bevarly’s last installment in her OPUS series, Overnight Male, (following You’ve Got Male and Express Male) I grew intrigued. A masterspy on her last assignment while showing her sexy new partner the ropes – how cool does that sound? Unfortunately, the novel is a prime example of how a good premise does not a good book make.
The novel begins badly. Lila Moreau walks through a nighttime Washington suburb, dressed in standard cat burglar outfit including a knitted cap and employed in a supposedly cool, but actually incredibly clichéd and smug inner monologue. A scumbag tries to force himself on her...she dispatches him with a few kicks. Her goal is her new partner’s house; she traditionally introduces herself to new partners by entering their houses and handcuffing them to the bed.
Because Joel Faraday is from the archives department of OPUS, the top secret organization both work for, he turns the tables on her and handcuffs her to the bed. For about the next hour, they glare at each other, think secret lusty thoughts, and try to impress each other with their coolness, like finding out what the other knows about their assignment without revealing their own secrets. Oh, and while Lila thinks she's in charge of the assignment, actually it’s Joel (who in spite of being an archivist is an athletic hunk) who holds that position, and he looks forward to taking her down a peg. Realizing I was heading for 330 pages filled with this couple's happy little power struggles, I groaned aloud. The whole scene read so incredibly infantile that I only wished the two of them were tied to separate beds - gags included - and that new protagonists might be found who might actually jump start the book and save the world from a master hacker. All that was by page 40.
For a time it seemed my hopes would be fulfilled to some extent, because the viewpoint soon switches to the master villain, Adrian Padgett, and the group of genius computer hackers he uses to milk the Internet and “take the planet hostage.” That was before I found out (after about one page) that this group was even more annoying than Lila and Joel. The three computer geniuses are portrayed as utter morons, and flat enough to be called one-dimensional. Padgett is the aging villain-getting-bored-with-his-own-evil straight from central casting. On a sudden impulse he decides to lust after the geniuses’ female hanger-on, a downtrodden Goth named Iris. Some time ago Iris ran away from her domineering, ruthless father, discovered all other men are wimps, and now (naturally) lusts for domineering, ruthless Adrian, 20 years her senior. Go figure. Actually, Iris might have been an interesting character if she hadn’t spent all her scenes making puppy eyes at Adrian.
I dragged my way through the rest of the book. The author tells a lot rather than showing – for example, we get a description of every character’s outfit, each time he or she changes it. The main characters all engage in lengthy inner monologues which are supposed to amuse, but don’t achieve much except that they lead to even more telling - as well as making the characters appear both conceited and rather dim. There is a lot of backstory inserted in small bits, but as this was the first novel I've read in the series, I found it more confusing than illuminating. The style is meant to be humorous, but as it depends on numerous repetitions, instead it dragged, at least for me. Because the suspense plot is mostly there to provide the characters with interesting scenes, there are several inconsistencies, both in what the characters know or don’t realize, and in the way they act.
That said, the book got slightly better in the second half before settling back to boring in the unnecessarily drawn-out and very sappy ending. By this point, I wasn’t much interested in what happened to any of the people in the book, and don’t intent to read anything else by this author, even though she has two DIKs to her credit. In the end, Overnight Male was easy to grade because I hated its first half and kind of plodded my way through the second. This is one book that will go straight to the charity bookshop.
-- Rike Horstmann
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