Laurel Kane, a column writer for a “third-rate” newspaper, must be the only woman in America to believe that romance and love are not a good basis for marriage. She feels that a happy, long lasting marriage should be based on resume-type qualities and love will hopefully fall into place somewhere down the line.
Rulinda, Laurel’s editor, gives her a book by Dr. Nadalov, Love Is Not the Answer, which is for singles over 30 who are having a hard time finding a marriage partner. Rulinda tells Laurel she should read it and write a column about it in the Valentine’s Day issue of the paper, since it seems to be right up her alley. Reluctantly Laurel accepts the assignment, but she ends up loving the book and believes everything in it to be true. She’ll debate the book with anyone willing to listen, including Joe, the coffee cart guy, who wholeheartedly believes marriage should be based on love.
Laurel discusses the topic more and more with Joe for a he-said-she-said kind of position for the column. She even pulls him into some strange dating experiences in the name of good journalism. All the while Joe tries desperately to show Laurel that her point of view is a bit distorted. In my opinion it’s not only a bit distorted, it’s just plain ridiculous. I was never swayed toward her position on marriage enough to believe that she was really serious. Joe ended up looking more like a normal person than a male romantic, which I was expecting from the description on the back of the book.
The first few chapters are really cute and funny. It’s like being in the middle of a Friends episode with several laugh out loud sections. The quips and light banter are amusing.
Unfortunately, the witty comments and friendly teasing end about Chapter 3, when Laurel’s unrelenting analytical marriage babble starts. She did shut up long enough to have sex with Joe, but she immediately decides that was a mistake and starts analyzing everything about that, too. That’s when I had to set the book down for a long breather.
As far as the characters went, Joe is portrayed as a really great guy. Everything he does is rational or purposeful. The author did a good job setting him up for the romance. Other the other hand, Laurel is never portrayed as a good romantic interest. Her appearance isn’t even described in detail. Her eye and hair color are never mentioned or even how dresses most of the time. It’s hard to understand what Joe liked about her, other than she was “pretty.”
Oh, and on the subject of sex, let’s examine this line from the story: “Joe leaned over, grabbed a condom from the bedside table drawer and donned it quickly.” Nothing unusual until you consider that just moments before Joe had to ask Laurel where her bedroom was because he had never been to her apartment before that night.
And during this entire fiasco of a romance (if you could even call it that), I kept wondering…if Laurel is not interested in romance, love or attraction and she’s not romantically attracted to Joe, but he’s a great guy with a good job and nice personality who actually likes her and treats her well - why didn’t she consider him a good candidate for marriage by Chapter 6?
I’m not giving up on Elaine Fox. The first few chapters of Hot Stuff are promising enough to hope that she’ll produce a book that combines contemporary characters and witty banter with a strong romance and sustains it through the entire story.