Prolific author Lisa Bingham is paired with newcomer Susan Peterson in this
uneven but entertaining romantic comedy duo.
Call of the Wild, Lisa Bingham's addition to Duets 49, is a skewed cross between a Dian Fosse/Jane Goodall thesis with a Dr. Ruth approach to sexual frankness. Dr. Jake Grisham heads up Project Mama for the Maratonga Behavioral Institute and Zoological Park in San Diego. For two years he's wanted Nellie the gorilla to mate, but eleven attempts have been unsuccessful. It seems that Nellie's giving the cold shoulder to all of her ‘suitors.' Some of them have even left holding their bruised family jewels. Jake is worried that the project will lose funding if results a.k.a. baby gorillas aren't produced soon.
Dr. Alana Childe is a successful radio sex therapist who's been hired to help Nellie overcome her aversion to mating. When Alana discovers that Jake heads Nellie's team, she realizes that her job may be more difficult than she had thought. She and Jake share an intimate past, one that will cause both of them more problems that they ever anticipated.
As the story unfolds, Nellie becomes an important character. In the past, she's hated all women who've tried to work with her, but Alana has a unique way of gaining Nellie's trust. Remember how we played with makeup when we were preteens? Nellie is likewise fascinated with Alana's female fripperies, and a charming scene ensues as they do girl stuff together.
Call of the Wild is a good, entertaining story, but it's the action that carries this story along and not the love interest. The interaction between Jake and Alana on a sexual level is not convincing. I was more interested in knowing the outcome of Nellie and her potential suitors than I was with the humans in the story. Knowing that, then I've gotta believe that this story is weak in the romance department.
Newcomer Susan Peterson's Everything But Anchovies is a likable story, but one that meanders too much into too many subplots and never seems to find its ‘sweet spot.'
Quinby Parker is a sweetheart with an occasional attitude, one of those people who fits the saying, 'Jack of all trades and good at nothing.' She hopes that her luck is about to change. Her latest endeavor is police work. She's a police rookie who's in danger of not making the force. Her father, a police chief, decides to intervene by partnering her with Josh Reed, an exemplary policeman. Dad hopes that Josh can help Quinby make the force.
Josh is pulled from a case he's on, and he and Quinby are given an assignment that's really lame. They're being assigned to provide witness protection for Josh's ex-wife's grandfather, an eyewitness at an open and shut convenience story robbery. I agree with Josh's reasoning. "So essentially, you're asking me to baby-sit a bumbling cop and my ex-wife's grandfather?" This whole scenario isn't funny, and I question why one that's so inane is used. Surely there are credible lines, ones that make sense and don't test this taxpayer's patience.
Quinby is sometimes her own worst enemy. In a scene where the mayor is making an ass of himself, Quinby does nothing to diffuse the situation. She's too brash, especially when she asks the mayor if the city has new suits for politicians. "I hear they give them a special cut for those of you who lack a set of ba__." Yet a few pages later she's wonderful in dealing with a fellow officer who's harassing her when she asks him,
"Why don't you go home and inflate your date?"
The scenes that concentrate on Josh and Quinby to the exclusion of all else are done with a deft touch. The gentle humor and wit are refreshing and very much in place, unlike Quinby's dealing with the mayor. While the humor between Josh and Quinby is great, the situational humor is too "Ace Ventura," too much of a broad brush humor.
Essentially my problem with Everything But Anchovies is that the story's too maze-like. Too many of the plot lines don't seem to go anywhere. Josh's problems with his ex-wife and his son seem to be left hanging. A jewel fencing plot line is here and then, poof, gone. The disappearing grandfather is too slapstick, and a big misunderstanding, one that could have been resolved with a short but honest conversation, is thrown in near the end.
Duets 49 is a grab bag book. You may reach inside and find just what you're looking for, or you may wonder what you got. That approach applies to both stories for me. I'm glad I looked inside, but I'm still wondering exactly what it is I got.