The Fling by Elda Minger
(Jove, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-13372-8
Veteran category author Elda Minger takes readers to Hawaii in The Fling. Kate Prescott is there to help pick up the pieces when her cousin Patti is left at the altar in front of five hundred guests. Kate, a pastry chef in her uncle’s restaurant, offers to help console Patti, and her uncle has the perfect solution. He’d been planning to surprise Patti and her new husband with a ten-day vacation at a luxury resort on Maui. Why not have Kate and Patti fly off and enjoy the islands, instead?

On the plane to Maui, Kate and Patti meet an unlikely compatriot: a showgirl named Cherry Jubilee who is on her way to the islands to find and marry a millionaire. Cherry lifts Patti out of the doldrums, and when Cherry is also abandoned on Maui, the two cousins offer her a place to stay in their villa.

Jack McKenna is back on Maui to take over the family resort, only his father has a few conditions. Jack must work at menial jobs around the resort for the next ten days, in order to give him a taste of the average worker’s life. He must survive on his earnings, keep his identity secret, and by the way, he really ought to think about settling down and getting married. Jack and Kate run into each other - literally - the first night she’s there. Kate is dumbstruck by the bad-boy hunk with the blue eyes, and Jack is equally impressed by Kate’s looks. When they run into each other again, late that night, Kate decides to throw her serious, predictable life to the winds and have a fling with this man.

A hot interlude in a poolside cabana leaves both of them wanting more. But the next morning, Jack is tending bar at poolside when he overhears Kate’s friends talk about coming to Maui to snag a millionaire. He immediately brands Kate a gold digger and drops her flat.

Time for dear old dad to step in and try to move things along. James McKenna wines and dines Kate, discovering enough about her to put his seal of approval on this match. Now all he has to do is get them together again.

It’s a thin plot, you have to admit. Jack spends much of the book grasping for ways to stay mad at Kate. Patti takes up with a swimming instructor, determined to have a fling of her own. Cherry keeps her eyes out for an available millionaire. Kate waffles between “Jack is a jerk” and “Oh god, I want him”. Jack, whose beloved mother died of cancer when he was eleven, “at best had only spackled over a completely broken heart”. He was perhaps the most problematic of the characters. Here’s a man who, at age thirty-six, is still trying to deal with the death of his mother twenty-five years earlier. He doesn’t need a romance - he needs a therapist. The emotional quick fix at the end just didn’t ring true.

Cherry is a delightful secondary character. Unapologetic, she sashays through the book dispensing street wisdom about men and refusing to back down for anyone. She would have made a far more interesting lead than Kate, who can’t seem to make up her mind what she really does want. As for Patti, her misguided but energetic efforts to wash her ex-fiancé out of her hair are both amusing and poignant. Luckily, the man she’s chosen for the task has an honorable streak.

The standout in this book is the setting. The author does a terrific job of presenting the lush beauty of the island and using it as an effective backdrop. Makes me want to hop on a plane tomorrow.

Overall, The Fling is a decent escape from reality. Elda Minger can take me back to Hawaii anytime.

--Cathy Sova

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