Heart of the Dragon

Animal Instincts by Gena Showalter
(HQN, $12.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-77152-5
Reading Animal Instincts is a bit like singing “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” By bottle 92, what seemed like a good idea at first has now lost its appeal; by bottle 85, most people are looking for something else to occupy their time.

Recently-divorced Dallas party planner Naomi Delacroix is determined to stop being a doormat and unleash her Inner Tigress. Her ex was a serial cheater, and Naomi is determined to never marry again (oh, here we go) or trust another man. But Naomi has agreed to plan a surprise party for the mother of Royce Powell, hunky millionaire bachelor. Royce really, really turns her on whenever she sees him. He makes her go week at the knees, he makes her head swim, she can’t think straight in his presence, she wants to jump his bones, she imagines them in bed together… in case readers don’t get the idea, Naomi repeats this little scene about seventeen times, usually doing something stupid and/or clumsy to accompany it.

Royce first laid eyes on Naomi at a party six months earlier. Even though they’ve never dated, never even spoken to one another, he declares he is in love with her and wants to marry her. In order to force Naomi to spend time with him, he insists that she have no other clients while planning his mother’s birthday bash. In return, he’ll pay triple Naomi’s normal fees. Naomi finds herself agreeing, and then Royce starts throwing up roadblocks to the party. He wants it an exotic location, not a Dallas hotel. Maybe… a seaside resort in Maine? A mountain lodge in Colorado? They will need to go inspect these places, together, of course.

Royce is an ace pilot, as his business is aeronautics. Naomi is terrified to fly. Royce won’t take no for an answer, and eventually her defenses fall. But when Royce proposes, Naomi retreats into “I’ll never love again” mode. After all, her father was fickle, her ex was a cheater, and she has reason to believe her mother’s marriage is on the rocks. Men can’t be trusted, therefore Royce must be pushed away. And if he won’t push, then Naomi must run. Run! Meanwhile, Naomi’s best friends, her cousins Kera and Mel, counsel Naomi in opposite ways. Kera is a born romantic; Mel is the love-em-and-leave-em type.

There you have it. I could buy the “inner tigress” aspect and Naomi not wanting to be a doormat. There are several scenes where she finds her backbone, and they’re amusing. But the anti-relationship stance got old, fast. The book was a seemingly unending refrain of “He’s so hot, but I can’t have him.” After the first 50 or so pages, I just wanted to put the whole thing down. There was absolutely no good reason for Naomi to spurn Royce; he’s the antithesis of her ex, he does nothing but dote on her, and her belief that all men are cheaters hangs on flimsy evidence. This woman can’t find one happy couple anywhere?

As for Royce, I didn’t buy his instant love for Naomi. It’s based on absolutely nothing except how she looked in a green dress - not the best basis for a lasting relationship. He’s a good guy in other respects, and his somewhat forceful treatment of Naomi has a slight undercurrent of desperation, as though he knows it’s the only way to keep her close enough to try and develop some sort of relationship.

At $12.95, Animal Instincts is pretty high priced for what the reader gets. Naomi’s song gets old – fast. At best, I can only recommend borrowing it from the library.

--Cathy Sova

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home