“New York City is all about sex. People getting it, people trying to get it, people who can't get it. No wonder the city never sleeps. It's too busy trying to get laid.”
-- Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex and the City”
Four sexy, stylish, single friends share the search for love in New York City. Sound familiar? It should. If her latest novel is any indication, “Sex and the City” can probably count among its fans author Jule McBride.
The HBO television program, which recently aired its series finale, was a hit because it was fresh and funny. Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte made us laugh, they made us cry, they even gave us sex advice. Over the show’s six-year run, they shattered preconceived notions about NYC singles, and about women in general. They were real, and that’s why we loved them.
In her newest title from the Harlequin Temptation line, McBride makes a valiant attempt to mimic their style. She introduces us to four Manhattanites - Signe, C.C., Diane and Mara - who, like their television counterparts, are searching for the perfect relationship. They flit - and flirt - all over town, crashing parties at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, meeting for breakfast at a trendy new café on the West Side, enjoying classical concerts in Central Park. The problem is that Carrie and company did it first, and did it better.
Signe, a Winona Ryder lookalike with the old-fashioned ideals of Charlotte and the hyper personality of Carrie, joins her friends on a Wiccan retreat weekend. Desperate for the attention of a man everyone knows as Gorgeous, she casts the “Bedspell” with a poem:
O, ye spirits, do hear me
In a crystal ball do see
An eve of sexy revelry
With a man I call Garrity …
After the ceremony, fueled by herbal root punch and wet from a drunken skinny-dip in the lake, she ends up in bed with the park ranger, whom she somehow believes is Gorgeous. Sanity returns the next morning and she lies about her identity because, in a rather petty fashion, she can’t imagine a future with him. She wants blue-blood; he’s blue-collar.
… She remembered the flannel shirts, steel-toed boots and disabled cats. The man might be amazing in bed, but he was not the type with whom a reasonable New York woman could make a lasting future, and Signe was practical. What she wanted most was a future.
His name is James and, feeling a little bewitched, he follows her to the city. They spend a week together and the sex is hot – but the plot most definitely is not. She never once asks his last name! Samantha might have a one-night stand with a mysterious stranger, but Carrie wouldn’t think of allowing a lover with boyfriend potential to remain anonymous. No self-respecting New Yorker would be that naïve, especially in the age of AIDS. McBride insults our intelligence when she asks us to believe that Signe just forgot – or doesn’t care.
“There’s nothing funnier or sexier to me than the idea of finding a stranger in your bed … especially a gorgeous hunk of a man you’ve never seen before, with whom you’ve shared the best passion of your life,” she writes in her introduction. Is she serious? McBride’s characters may look and sound like “Sex and the City’s” heroines, but she fails to capture the essence of New York women – we’re savvy, smart and sophisticated. We’re not all out to nab a rich husband, and we don’t all jump into bed with the first available man … even if we’re intoxicated.
When the truth comes out (and no spoilers here, ladies; it’s revealed on the back cover that James is Gorgeous’ brother and therefore also a Garrity), Signe is hurt and angry. We can’t sympathize, however, because it never occurs to her to take responsibility for her own welfare – and actions. She wonders why he didn’t tell her; we wonder why she never asked. She’s an adult living in one of the biggest cities in the world … she should know better.
Bedspell has its cute and quirky moments, like any good episode of “Sex and the City,” but it mostly falls flat because it’s just not realistic. Signe gets her happily ever after, of course, but what does she learn? After all, every episode of “Sex and the City” ends with a voice-over by Carrier, offering some lesson.
Well, in the end, McBride redeems herself somewhat by penning a caustic scene with James’ family, where Signe finally realizes that richer isn’t necessarily happier. His sister-in-law is beautiful, but oh so shallow. His uncle, whose art collection she covets, is loud and opinionated, almost boorish in manner. When’s she’s called upon to defend the very man who fired her because of a missing statue at the museum where she worked, Signe realizes that life – and love – can’t be seen in mere black and white.
As Carrie once said: “Maybe you have to let go of who you were to become who you will be.”