Seven Days and Seven Nights
by Wendy Wax
(Bantam, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-553-58613-0
Wendy Wax shows some promise in her debut contemporary romance with an interesting if slightly creepy premise. However, her characters are too clichéd and her pacing is uneven. Still, if you’re a fan of the “stuck with you” plot, you might enjoy Seven Days and Seven Nights.

Radio station WTLK is fortunate to host two of Atlanta’s most interesting personalities. The mornings are filled by earnest psychologist Dr. Olivia Moore’s advice show, Liv Live, while the late-night hours belong to carefree Matt Ransom’s Guy Talk. One show encourages women to get in touch with their feelings, while the other urges men to have a good ol’ time and “love the one you’re with.” It isn’t surprising that the two hosts don’t get along, but their animosity also has a history: eight years ago, Olivia and Matt had a brief affair that ended badly when the playboy Matt dumped the young, naïve Olivia.

So when the station’s manipulative Promotions Director suggests a sure-fire publicity stunt that requires Matt and Olivia to live in the same small apartment for seven days while providing daily remote broadcasts, Olivia objects vociferously. There’s no way she’s getting close to that hound dog again. But she may not have a choice. The station’s owner has decided that he can only afford one of the two hosts, and the decision about who to keep will be based primarily on the size of the ratings the two garner during their “captivity” together.

Of course the close proximity wreaks havoc with Matt’s vow to seduce Olivia, as well as with Olivia’s plans to stay far away from Matt. They are surprised to find some common ground and are on their way to a new understanding of each other, but when their every move is broadcast via web cam, their volatile truce is likely to explode at any minute.

Author Wendy Wax’s own radio experience is apparent in her accurate portrayal of WTLK’s daily operations and the lively radio banter between host and caller. Matt’s show, in particular, is a hoot, as he discusses masculine topics such as the proper use of a television remote. As long as Olivia and Matt exchange barbs over the air, the novel soars. Even its Truman Show-like premise, although voyeuristic, doesn’t seem too far-fetched in the era of Reality TV.

But Wax has a few lessons to learn before her characters are as engaging as her plot. Olivia is the type of uptight professional woman who has become an unwelcome cliché in romantic comedy. Why does smart + accomplished = shrew in these books? And Matt crosses the line several times between charming rogue and selfish little boy. He may be handsome and funny, but he hangs onto that stereotypical male Fear of Commitment much longer than he needs to, and his treatment of Olivia at times is almost cruel.

Another problem is the book’s pacing. The forced co-habitation leads to predictable behaviors in the two leads - please, no more drunk heroines who try to seduce the suddenly honorable hero - but at least it facilitates some provocative sexual chemistry. But the promotion ends with almost 100 pages left in the novel, which drags through a long, drawn-out conclusion that provides almost no face-to-face interaction between hero and heroine. The secondary romance, between a couple who seek advice from both Olivia and Matt, is sweet but also predictable, and adds little to the story.

I’ve had a fondness for radio station plots ever since the heyday of WKRP in Cincinnati, but I’m not a big fan of the “battle of the sexes” idea. If Wax had made Oliva and Matt less Oprah Winfrey/Tim Allen stereotypes and more complex characters who just happened to have a history together, Seven Days and Seven Nights could have been a much more satisfying, nuanced story.

--Susan Scribner

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