In the Mood

Risky Business

Switched, Bothered & Bewildered

Talk of the Town

Hysterical Blondeness by Suzanne Macpherson
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-06-077500-1
We’ve heard it all before: dowdy, unattractive woman has a makeover and attracts local millionaire playboy only to realize that blondes don’t necessarily have more fun. Hysterical Blondeness doesn’t add any exciting new twists to this age-old story, but it does draw a few laughs.

Slightly overweight Patricia Stillwell signs up for an experimental weight loss program, but the DNA-changing pills come with some unexpected side-effects: the brunette wakes up a “natural” blonde. Other heads start turning. For one, her playboy boss Brett Nordquist not only arranges for a promotion, he also invites her out to lunch. At first, our girl thinks the spoiled department store heir is trying to make his girlfriend jealous, but soon Brett and Patricia are spending more and more time dating, partying and getting drunk. Her blondeness would be going to her head were it not for unexpected attentions from another quarter: her supportive housemate and reliable old buddy, Paul Costello.

All this is supposed to be funny, and if you are willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to how scientific research is conducted, at moments it is. While Macpherson’s depiction of the lives of the wealthy veers between slapstick and clichés, she does a marvelous job portraying the friendship between Patricia and her other housemate, Pinky. She gives them some witty dialogue and recreates the atmosphere of the Thin Man movies that these two love to watch.

Unfortunately, Patricia’s final conversion comes out of the blue. What’s worse, Paul falls short of hero material. It’s bad enough that he isn’t really attracted to her until after she goes blonde (although to be fair to him he is aware of how funny she is), he also does something I find creepy. Despite strict rules about no intimate relationships between roommates, he enters Patricia’s room when she’s sleeping off her alcoholic excesses. He looks at her, he touches her, he kisses her. The next thing we know, they’re having sex. Of course, the sex comes with all the usual hyperboles, but the fact that she barely remembers it the next day makes me wonder how consensual it could have been. The rest of the time, there is very little chemistry between them. He is supportive and caring, but it’s hardly to his credit that he would make a fabulous girlfriend!

Pinky is the real attraction in this story. She is a sharp-tongued transplanted Brooklyn girl with a head on her shoulder (think Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday). I wish she’d got a better deal out of the story than the rather meager romance thrown her way. She interacts often enough with Patricia to prove a rather overlooked point: blondes may have all the fun, but brunettes get the better lines. Guess which ones I prefer? I hope Suzanne Macpherson keeps that in mind when she’s penning her next heroine.

--Mary Benn

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