This is the summer of my discontent . . .
There is a drought in the small space I inhabit. Oh, there has been rain. The trees and grass are green and the flowers are flourishing. It is a reader’s drought. Many of the romances I’ve read this summer have been arid. The crop of spring and summer books has been sparse. Some of the plots, premises and authors I anticipated withered on the vine.
I looked forward to the release of Dara Joy’s High Intensity, the follow-up to the author’s 1996 romance, High Energy. I like the first novel because it is reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the 30s I enjoy so much. Yes, Zanita Masterson is a bit ditzy. In small dozes, that was part of her charm. But then there was Tyberius Augustus Evans, the very physical theoretical physicist, who taught me to look at Newton’s Laws of Motion in a whole new way.
I expected the romance that followed to be as witty and fresh as the original. I expected the novel to pick up the story of Zanita’s best friend Mills and rogue Gregor Mazurski from High Energy.
But my expectations and reality collided faster than the speed of light in High Intensity.
High Intensity is a direct sequel to High Energy and not a spin-off. The novel begins immediately after the first one. Tyber is trying to come up with a plan to keep Zanita with him. At the close of High Energy she had agreed to marry Tyber, but now is backpedaling because she doesn’t want “to do anything to tamper with the status quo of their relationship.” Citing the gospel according to TV Guide, Zanita reasons: “No one’s ever allowed to be married in romantic movies and books; it’s a rule of some kind. It has to do with the excitement factor.”
So to keep her excited (How much “excitement” can one woman stand?) Tyber creates a cybermarriage, of sorts. He has executed a computer program that buys him five days as Zanita’s husband. It creates a five-day trial marriage to convince her that their their relationship will not deteriorate. It also gives them time to investigate a story about a tavern owner on Martha’s Vineyard who claimed his establishment was haunted. It’s a strange mystery full of double entendres about buns. Hopefully, the ruses will keep Zanita distracted. I certainly was.
The narrative moves along very slowly. Yes, the sexual chemistry between the main characters is still very explosive and instructive. But after a while, I began to ask: Is that all there is?
I disliked seeing my hero Tyber resort to manipulating Zanita at every turn to keep her with him. It wasn’t very heroic and by now, even Zanita should recognize his value without all the subterfuge.
As a result, the pirate metaphors really began to wear thin and the whole sick crew (my apologies to Thomas Pynchon’s V) of My Father's Mansion comes off as flaky in this installment of the Evans-Masterson saga. Walk on appearances by the quirky secondary characters - including Mills, Gregor and his son, Cody - fall flat. Not even references to the author’s popular Matrix of Destiny series could heighten my interest. Instead of the frothy, funny romp that was High Energy the novel more closely resembles a Scooby-Doo episode. Even the mystery falls flat without a villain comparable to Xavier LaLeche.
I was very disappointed in this weak-three heart read. It has given rise to Osborne’s theory of relativity. Any relationship between High Intensity and High Energy is purely coincidental.