Fly Me to the Moon
by Kylie Adams
(Zebra, $6.50, R) ISBN 0-8217-6809-3
**
Fly Me to the Moon is aptly named. The two lead characters fit my personal definition of space cadets. When a hero goes from lawyer to lounge singer to stripper, then he's too spacey for me. And a heroine who leaves the same guy at the altar three times is not breathing a reality-based atmosphere.

Sofia Cardinella has just skipped her third wedding ceremony with a man that her father wants her to marry, a union that will be good for business. Most people aren't surprised and only come to her weddings because the food is good. She'll be living with her gay co-worker until it's safe to go home. And considering Dad's gangster connections, it may be a while.

Ben Estes is pursuing a dream. He's shucked his legal career and wants to make it big as an entertainer, a la Frank Sinatra. Right now gigs are few and far between, which is why he's performing at a mall in the center court. A young woman introduces herself, compliments his act and then has the audacity to tell him to go easy on the Sinatra songs. Blasphemy!

They engage in clever banter and reveal their ultimate goals. Sofia, who works as a cosmetics salesperson at a large department store, wants to own her own cosmetics company, while Ben wants to make it big as an entertainer. They discover that one of Ben's gigs is at a restaurant where Sofia and her family eat weekly. Fate.

With each anxious to see the other, Fate again steps in. At the restaurant, Sofia is horrified to discover that her father has invited her ex-fiancé. Won't the guy give up? The family dinner deteriorates into factions, as relatives bring up old wounds. The climax occurs as Ben is singing and Sofia's father goes ballistic that anyone would try to emulate Old Blue Eyes. With his influence, he has Ben fired.

With no income from the gig, Ben doesn't have enough rent money and again has to outwit his landlord. While he's hiding from the landlord, he overhears two of Sofia's dad's employees as they look for him. When they're trying to remember who brought the silencer, Ben knows he's in big trouble.

And while Ben is having BIG trouble, I was having BIG trouble taking this book seriously. Ben and Sofia are too shallow to be believed. Sofia takes Ben on a trip she's won, ending up at animal advocate Doris Day's hotel in Carmel. That's good, because Sofia's dog, Mr. Pickles, has to come along. And if he's not peeing on Ben's clothes, then he's doing worse. When Dad's two goons appear, they end up helping Sofia and Ben get married. I guess good killers are hard to find.

One particularly annoying scene involves Ben buying a wedding ring for Sofia. One of his good friends has connections with a jeweler. The jeweler shows Ben a dazzler, a ring with an "emerald-cut sapphire. Ten carats, plus two carats in trillion-cut side diamonds." Ben's friend buys the ring, with Ben promising to pay it off at a hundred dollars a month. Now, if he lives on another planet where longevity is assured, he might be able to pay it off. Surely even ex-lawyers know the value of gemstones. If nothing else, he should know that ‘they ain't cheap.'

The initial meeting of the partners of Sofia's fledgling cosmetic business emphasizes the problems I had with this book. Sofia, her sister and her gay friend are working on a business plan, clarifying issues when suddenly Sofia blurts, "Has anyone been watching Passions? I've missed a whole week." Let’s digress and talk about vapid matters.

Sofia's sister and gay friend add some interest to the story and provide some much needed humor instead of the witless antics of the protagonists. Ben's friends are written with more depth, their personalities less soothing. The secondary characters really do make the story more palatable.

Throw in last minute death threats to Sofia, her sister romancing the ex-fiancé, Ben making money as a stripper, an old flame coming onto him, Sofia making nail polish in her living room and you've got a story that doesn't seem to fit together smoothly.

You can bet that everything turns out fine for these two airheads. But by the time it finally happens, I didn't care. They could go to the moon or I could. I just wanted to be away from them.

--Linda Mowery


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