All the Queen's Men

A Bouquet of Babies

Cry No More

Dying to Please

A Game of Chance

Kiss Me While I Sleep

Mr Perfect

Now You See Her

Open Season

Strangers of the Night

Under the Boardwalk

To Die For by Linda Howard
(Ballantine, $7.99, R) ISBN 0-345-47625-5
Well here’s the deal. Blair Mallory is a former cheerleader and even attended college on a cheerleading scholarship. Is that way cool or what? She married this really good-looking guy Jason Carson. (What kind of dumb parents would give their poor kid a name so that it rhymes?) Jason has political ambitions, and he and Blair make a great couple and look good in pictures together, but Jason is like fidelity-challenged. When Blair catches him kissing her seventeen-year-old sister and pulls out her camera to record the event, she’s got him by the short and curlies.

In the divorce, she takes him to the cleaners – she even gets the Mercedes. Well, duh, the scum deserved it, you know. Cheating on her with her own under-aged sister in his in-laws’ house!!! Come o-o-on. With the proceeds she sets herself up in business running a fitness center Great Bods. Besides running the gym, she regularly teaches classes and keeps in shape. She’s not fake or anything but she’s the kind of female it’s so easy to hate. You know the type: the one who can wear all that sexy underwear and skimpy exercise stuff and look perfect just like in the ads. Well, it makes sense that someone does or they’d use real people as models.

So one night Blair is closing up and heading to her car when she thinks someone is shooting at her. I mean, for real!!! She gets back inside and calls the cops, and it turns out that another woman was shot and killed, this skanky psycho-bitch Nicole who was imitating Blair in hair and dress and everything and the other women couldn’t stand her but the men fell for all that slinky stuff, if you know what I mean.

Police Lieutenant Wyatt Bloodsworth shows up at the scene. He was an NFL football player but quit to become a policeman so he’s got some money and helped his family and everything so you know he’s a good guy. Two years ago Blair and Wyatt, who’s a real hottie, almost had a thing going, but he didn’t have a condom and she wasn’t on the pill....Well, she’s not stupid you know. You can’t be too careful. Anyway, she thought Wyatt and she had something going but after three dates he leaves and never calls again. How lame is that? And she hasn’t hooked up with anyone else in all that time. So Blair does what any self-respecting woman would do: she pretends she can’t remember him. I mean, it’s a fu-u-unny scene even though Wyatt doesn’t buy it.

Blair is worried that she’s been identified as a witness to a crime so she thinks it makes a lot of sense to leave town. You can’t argue with that. Besides, you know, her business is a crime scene and it’s got that yellow tape all around it so she’s got to close for a few days anyway. She decides to pamper her inner beach bunny Tiffany. I can really relate. I’ve got an inner snowbird Margarita myself, and I’d do anything for some warm beach time instead of nothing but cold and ice and snow but I’m alright with it because that’s winter, right? Whatever. Now say what you will about Blair being an airhead, but I think anyone who heads to the beach because she’s witnessed a murder has her head on straight, you know. Well she heads for Wrightsville Beach; that’s a North Carolina beach that’s a really up-scale kind of beach. You gotta remember she was a cheerleader – she’s got standards. Of course, she packs several great abs-revealing coordinating outfits, a turquoise bikini, cute flip-flops, and makeup. Way to go, girl!

Wyatt follows her, and their, uhh, relationship gets, you know, real physical.. Then when they’re going back home, someone takes a shot at Blair and hits her!!! Omigod. Maybe someone’s trying to kill her!!!

You’re probably thinking that this is so not Linda Howard. Everyone – I mean like everyone –knows she writes books with really cool guys just oozing testosterone and all those alpha-male vibes. Rowrrrr. And she’s always been kind of serious, you know, but lately she’s really headed for the dark side. Her last book, Kiss Me While I Sleep, has a heroine who was a contract assassin for the CIA. Euwww.

But she’s written some good kind of light stuff, too, you know. Did you read Mr. Perfect? It has some funny stuff. And Open Season – now that’s one of my real favorites – has some laugh-out-loud scenes that are just great and whenever I get sick that’s one of the books I like to read because you need something fun when you’re feeling crappy, you know. So this comedy thing isn’t a totally new direction for her, it’s just a little unexpected if you know what I mean. Now sometimes it seems like a little over the top, but hey! get a sense of humor.

The book is also like different because it’s written in that first person point of view from English class, and you don’t see that much. It really works, you know, for that character motivation thingie. I mean, you know what Blair’s thinking all the time and why she does stuff and she is so totally awesome with the clothes and the exercise and a Mercedes convertible already.

So Linda Howard’s channeling a cheerleader instead of her usual regular kind of story, but writing the other type all the time has got to be a real downer, you know. Sometimes a girl’s just gotta have fun.

If you’ve got a case of the winter blahs and want something to read that’s fun instead of all that serious ... oops! I don’t think I can write that in a review ... well, you know, serious stuff out there. There are a lot worse things to do than spending some time with Blair and Wyatt. She thinks he’s to die for, and he thinks she’s to die for, and the book’s a hoot!!!

--Lesley Dunlap

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