Dangerous

Defiant

Desperate

The Pregnant Ms. Potter

Sweet Laurel

The Trouble With Mary

True Love

 
The Trials of Angela by Millie Criswell
(Ballantine, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8041-1993-7
**
Angela DeNero’s life is on a definite downturn. Her fiancé has left her for another woman, she’s fighting the flu, and her next case is a nasty custody suit. What’s an attorney to do? To top things off, Angela runs into John Franco at the police station, where his grandmother has been arrested for shoplifting. John Franco, the devastatingly good-looking fellow attorney, and object of Angela’s high-school crush.

Since John is representing the store owner, and since Angela is feeling a bit out of sorts, what with the flu and all, she does what any mature, intelligent woman would do upon running into an old heartthrob: she starts insulting him. What does he plan to do with his poor grandmother? she asks. “Have her put in the electric chair? What kind of man are you?”

Great. I’m on page seven and I want to slap this woman. When it turns out that John is also the opposing counsel on the custody case, there’s plenty of convenient conflict as Angela and John start lusting after one another. Then it turns out that Angela’s “flu” will be making an appearance in about eight months. Can John love another man’s child?

Angela comes across as self-absorbed and a bit on the whiny side. She has an irritating habit of giving herself orders in some sort of weird internal monologue. I lost count of the times she told herself: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Because she’s insecure around John, sure a hunk like him can’t really be interested in pregnant ol’ her, she lashes out at him repeatedly, which really turned this reader off.

John, for his part, remembers Angela well and always regretted he never asked her out when he had the chance. Back then, Angela was a straight-A, virginal icon of young womanhood and way out of his league. Maybe now he’ll have a second chance. I liked him, though I questioned his taste in women.

This story is chock-full of Italian family members acting in the most stereotypical of ways as they shriek and berate John and Angela by turns. The grandmothers talka likea thisa a lot, which was annoying in itself, and the rest of the cast is the standard mix of funky/screwball. There’s John’s gay brother, who does a fabulous job of decorating John’s apartment. There’s Angela’s flaky sister, who can’t seem to hold a job and now wants to become a bodyguard. (She also gets top billing in the next book.) There’s Angela’s father, an ex-cop who is into cross-dressing. None of them were given any depth, and they felt like they’d been pulled from a casting pool.

Seems that John is related by marriage to the defendant in the custody case (which one might think could be a wee conflict of interest), so his family uses that as a reason to tell him he’s a no-good bum for working for the other side. Angela’s family is more of the “haven’t you found a nice young man yet?” variety. The relatives took up way too much space in the story. What with the custody case, the relatives, the pregnancy, a coworker’s romance, and several subplots involving family members, Angela and John spend relatively little time together, and the very real issues surrounding her pregnancy are glossed over. Angela never entertains the slightest thought of informing the natural father about her pregnancy, which came across as rather repugnant, not to mention stupid for an attorney. When John and Angela declare they are in love, it’s more like lust in disguise.

The Trials of Angela never felt more than superficial at best. A tiresome heroine and a hunky hero do not a romance make.

--Cathy Sova


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