The Bachelor's Bed

Blue Flame

Duets 42

Duets 57

Get a Clue

The Harder They Fall

Her Sexiest Mistake

Her Perfect Stranger

Hiding Out at the Circle C

Long-Lost Mom

Room Service

Seduce Me

Seeing Red

White Heat

Who's the Boss

Out of This World
by Jill Shalvis
(Brava, $14.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-7582-1444-8
Rachel Bond, painter of outdoor murals in Los Angeles, is visiting her recent inheritance, the aptly named Hideaway B & B in the wilds of Alaska. Accompanying her is her best friend’s brother, Kellan McInty, who is filling in for his sister because she can’t take the time off from her job. He is a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld, so apparently his time is his own. Their harrowing flight in by water plane is just the tip of the iceberg, problem wise: the staff at the B&B seem strangely incompetent and quite secretive; there is no way out until the plane returns on Monday; there are supposedly no guests at the inn, but strange noises and sights abound; and, during a freakish rainstorm, they are both struck by lightning. Oh, worst of all, there were no cookies in the boxes of supplies left by the pilot.

Actually, worst of all is that, post-lightning strike, they have superpowers. Rachel has x-ray vision and can see through any and everything, while Kel has super strength that has him unwittingly putting his fist through doors. Suddenly Rachel doesn’t think Kel looks as “platonic friend” as he used to; suddenly he looks hot and stud-ly and yummy, and she is interested in adding some benefits to that friendship. Kel has worshipped her from afar for years, and while he’d certainly like some benefits, too, it seems that her interest is dependent on his superpowers. He won’t have those forever, right? And when they’re gone, she will be too. Not a road he wants to go down.

They banter, they flirt, they flirt heavy. Then, suddenly, 200 pages in, comes a completely different book. There are bad guys, and guns, and implicit (well, actually pretty explicit) threats of rape. What the hey? Where the heck did this come from?

I confess – this would have been an entirely different experience if I hadn’t read an uncorrected proof without back cover copy. The mystery of what had happened to Kel and Rachel kept me reading. The answer, when provided, seemed just plain duh-stupid. What is worse is that it’s all spelled out in the back cover copy see in bookstores. Jeez. At least I had the mystery to keep me going.

In fact, once the mystery is out of the way, the shortcomings become evident, the most serious of which is in the writing style. The author has a way with words, and it is frequently not a good way. It is at times awkward, if not actually ungrammatical. While I can’t cite the exact rules being violated, I’m pretty sure there are rules being violated. Like: Gripping my hips, his head fell back against the couch. Was his head gripping the hips in question? Or: My insides trembled as much as my fingers when I cupped his jaw, stroking his chest with palms that felt hot and achy. Is the jawbone connected to the chest bone?

Jarring sentence structure is nothing next to the jarring genre switch. When given a couple of off-beat main characters, a cartoon cover with a wacky-cool typeface, and a ridiculous fantasy scenario involving superpowers, one does not expect to be looking down gun barrels and trying to escape disgusting and deadly bad guys in Chapter 18. Moreover, if one hopes to triumph over said bad guys, it is not a good time to 1) seduce your partner, or 2) be so hell-bent on telling him that you love him that you throw a monkey wrench into the escape plans, or 3) keep up the witty banter and sassy attitude with either your partner or yourself, inner-monologuedly speaking.

What I did love, what hooked me in the beginning, was that witty banter and those sassy attitudes: Rachel more of the sassy, and Kel more of the witty. His voice had a particular rhythm and cadence that was both authentic (to shamelessly stereotype Californian dolphin trainers) and appealing. This was most evident their his spoken dialogue, including a funny bit on the use of the word “fine,” but also apparent in the inner monologue, of which we get quite a bit, as the first-person POV switches back and forth. I also liked his beta-male-ness, the glasses-and-geek deal, refreshing after endless alphas.

These characters were almost enough to make me overlook the silly errors that one hopes could be caught before printing, like: Rachel is a “spec” mural painter – spec as in, I’ll paint this and you’ll buy if you like it? But isn’t it already on their building? And it’s SeaWorld without a space and BlackBerry with two big Bs. And two of the characters got momentarily switched into different couples near the end…

Give me the zany chick-lit, or give me (credible) paranormal, or give me action/suspense – but please, not all at once. Even great characters can’t overcome these odds to score more than 3 hearts.

--Laura Scott

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