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The Paradise Man

No Ordinary Man
by Suzanne Simmons
(St. Martins, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-96495-1
It's hard to criticize No Ordinary Man. The book is so gosh-darned good-natured that you have to give it some credit. But I can't agree with the back cover, which promises "a contemporary romance filled with sparkling wit, exciting adventure and sizzling passion." I found a sweet contemporary romance, but nothing more exhilarating than that. The uninspired plot and the strange dialogue style left me cold.

Mitchell Storm, lord of an impoverished Scottish isle, travels to America to seek out his distant cousin Victoria, a millionaire heiress. Mitchell's and Victoria's great-great grandfathers were brothers whose quarrel divided the family. One brother made millions as a late 19th century American robber baron, while the other stayed in Scotland and fiscally mismanaged the island into the ground. The promise of a long-buried treasure that could revive the Storm clan brings Mitchell to Torey's doorstep.

Torey is not the spoiled airhead that Mitchell expects. Yes, she's rich and beautiful, but she also has a good head on her shoulders and is kind and compassionate to all. She agrees to travel to Scotland and help him find the treasure. Unfortunately, during Mitchell's absence some nefarious fortune hunters have made themselves at home in his castle and have set their sights on Mitchell's bachelorhood as a target to overcome. To put them off the track, Mitchell asks Torey to pretend they are engaged. Torey is willing to help out however she can.

I was plodding along, dutifully waiting for the promised "wicked way with plots" (another back cover endorsement quote) but the trite pretend-engagement scenario put an end to any hopes that this novel would rise above the mediocre. The mystery of the treasure is mildly engaging, but the villains are two-dimensional and too inept to be threatening.

The strangest thing about No Ordinary Man is the dialogue. Suzanne Simmons' characters have an annoying habit of parroting each other ad nauseum, as in this example:

"You are supposed to be thinking of marrying me."
"Marrying you?"
"These are not subtle individuals, Torey. They just won't get it otherwise."
"Marrying you?"
"Trust me, a charade is the easiest way of dealing with people like the Forbes."
"Marrying you?"
"Yes. Marrying me."

Maybe that's supposed to be the promised "sparkling wit," but it just made me dizzy. Add to that lots of short, choppy, one sentence paragraphs and you have a very quick but not terribly satisfying reading experience. Here's one more example:

The man was noble, even regal.
And intimidating.
But he was far more than that, Torey acknowledged.
He was gorgeous.

Mitchell and Torey are both perfect and obviously meant for each other. Simmons alludes to the fact that Mitchell is trying to deceive Torey in some way but then drops that idea in favor of focusing on the bad guys instead. There really isn't much conflict keeping the lovers apart, other than Torey's obvious choice between her familiar, empty life in Rhode Island and the handsome, brave man who understands her perfectly. There is a rather healthy dose of sensuality, however more than I would have expected in something this light and airy. The promised "sizzling passion" does come close to being delivered in full.

I really hate giving No Ordinary Man such a low rating, since the author obviously is fond of the sweet characters she has created. I have no doubt Mitchell and Torey will be happy together, and I'd gladly send them an engagement present, but I'd rather not bother reading about them. However, if you like your romances light and amiable, and don't mind the choppy writing style then you might find it more rewarding than I did.

--Susan Scribner

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