Noble Intentions

Improper English by Katie MacAlister
(Love Spell, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-505-52517-8
On the front of Improper English is a quote stating this book is “funny, quirky and enjoyable.” For me, one out of the three spells a strikeout. Quirky isn’t enough to sustain me.

There are actually snippets of two stories in one. Our heroine, Alix Freemar is a wanna-be romance writer. At 29, she moves to London for a few months on a dare from her mother…she gets published or she returns to the States and stays under her mother’s thumb. She borrows a flat and begins to write her novel. We are treated to verses from this story at the beginning of every chapter. The writing in these snippets is bad. The writing in the rest of the story is not a lot better.

In this flat, Alix meets many quirky people: a lesbian couple, a reclusive man, a detective, and her landlord. The landlord, Isabella, is determined to be a matchmaker. She teams Alix up with a man named Karl, whom she swears is perfect for Alix. But it is Isabella’s other friend, Alex Black, the Scotland Yard detective, to whom Alix is attracted, as in wham-bam attracted.

The entire book revolves around the following premise: Alix falls for Alex, who also falls but doesn’t want Alix to really know it. Alix has a major inferiority complex and talks to herself and the lesbians about it all the time. Her writing is horrible, but she convinces herself it is okay, only to be devastated when she is told it isn’t by all and sundry. She shared with others, got criticized, and then made changes. What she ended up with is a montage of snippets of purple prose that she couldn’t sell.

Alex, the male, wants a long-term relationship and appears hurt that Alix, the female doesn’t want that. He is also serious about his job and Alix the female doesn’t understand that. Alix thinks she is not good enough for Alex, who doesn’t understand what she is talking about. This is their conflict.

There is no substance here. There is a lot of purple prose, both in Alix’s book and eventually between Alix and Alex. There are pages of rambling scenes full of dialogue that was uneventful. There are attempts at humorous scenes such as when three drunken women wake up Alex in the middle of the night. But they continually fall flat.

There is a nice little moral, and at the end, I did feel that Alix had grown emotionally. But at that point, I really didn’t care. Alex is portrayed in a totally superficial way since the book is told from the female point of view with no hint as to what makes him tick. There are hints that he is an alpha male, but no evidence is given. He is really a non-entity.

Thirty pages into this book, I put it down and had to force myself to keep picking it up. By the last 100 pages, I was determined to finish it - hardly a testament to a good story. Improper English is a meager tale of lust turned to love seen through the eyes of a struggling writer. Avoid it.

--Shirley Lyons

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