Body and Soul

Once Upon a Dream

 
Shocking Behavior by Jennifer Archer
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN: 0-505-52507-0
****
What are the odds that a reader will enjoy a book where the hero is invisible for 90% of the story? If that book is Shocking Behavior, the odds are very good indeed.

Jerome “J.T.” Drake has always felt second fiddle to his father Hershel’s work. Hershel, something of an absent-minded professor, has never been the same since his wife died when J.T. was only three years old. The father and son relationship suffered as well. So, when J.T. comes back to his small Texas hometown, it’s only because a neighbor reported strange smoke and smells coming from his father’s basement laboratory.

Unbeknownst to his father, J.T. sneaks into the lab to investigate. The accidental push of a button sends a bolt of electricity through J.T. and he loses consciousness. When he awakens, he is looking into the very unique eyes of Hershel’s assistant, Dr. Roselyn Peabody. Strange thing is, she doesn’t seem to see him.

Although Hershel and Roselyn are delighted their experiment has actually worked, neither one of them is sure they can get J.T. back to normal. Unfortunately, Hershel’s’ original research for the project was stolen 30 years ago and his memory is failing. Hershel has to reveal the whole truth behind the project to his son so they can retrieve the information needed to return J.T. back to normal.

Both J.T. and “Rosy” are wonderful characters, very human and likeable. J.T., for example, is quite rude to Rosy when he first finds out what happens to him. The next day, he apologizes, explaining that the distress of the situation had gotten the better of him. How can you not like a guy who admits he was wrong? He also has no problem telling Rosy that he finds her attractive and how he feels. No games, no hidden agendas.

Rosy is also a breath of fresh air among contemporary heroines. A former high school geek, she’s suspicious of J.T.’s motives based on some past bad experiences. So what does she do? She tells him that she’s suspicious of his motives because of what happened to her in the past. That’s Rosy in a nutshell. She’s smart and believes in communication. I also liked that she was a little nerdy, it made her very accessible to the reader. Put her together with a hero like J.T. and you have a relationship that's a pleasure to watch develop. Especially with Rosy's penchant for racy underwear.

The secondary characters were also great people to meet. One can empathize with Hershel, whose reaction to his losses is all too human. There is a flashback scene showing what his relationship with J.T. was like before the death of his wife that makes the reader really route for them to mend their fences. There are a lot of true and realistic emotions in this book.

Of course when you deal with science fiction themes, there will always be some little contrivances that make one want to roll their eyes. One instance is when J.T. is jogging naked (after he’s been turned invisible of course) and thinking how great it is to have certain parts free of restraint. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking “Ouch”. There are also a few plot devices near the conclusion that are a bit too convenient. Still, these little missteps are few and far between.

As a whole, Shocking Behavior is well written and clever. It’s an all around fun book to read and I will be on the lookout for more by Jennifer Archer.

--Anne Bulin


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