Baby, Oh Baby!

Ooh, La La! by Robin Wells
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52503-8
On page 23 of Ooh, La La!, heroine Kate Matthews asks herself why she always acts like a prissy dork whenever she gets nervous. Good question. Too bad she, and the reader, are still grappling with it several hundred pages later. Ooh, La La has a terrific premise and a decent hero, but the heroine is likely to set readers’ teeth on edge.

Hollywood hunk Zack Jackson, a former childhood star turned director, needs a major hit or his career in Hollywood is probably finished. His latest project is based on a true story set in Storyville, New Orleans’ notorious red-light district. To make it authentic, he needs a historical consultant, one who will make sure all the details are correct.

Enter Kate. She’s a history professor at a small university, and this seems like the break guaranteed to gain her tenured status. But work with Zack Jackson, her childhood crush? Uptight Kate is sure she’ll mess this up. And once she gets a glimpse of the man Zack has become, she’s even surer.

Zack seems genuinely interested in Kate. In fact, he thinks she’s dynamite in the looks department, thought Kate is sure she’s nothing better than plain. He must be just bored and looking for a diversion, right? And even though she has an adolescent daughter, Kate hasn’t had sex in thirteen years because she’s lousy at it (after all, her one lover told her so) and she’d only disappoint Zack. So she’ll settle for wearing stockings and garter belts and wishing she were different.

Zack and Kate do end up in bed, and he’s able to teach her a few things, like how to have an orgasm for the first time. Oh, and thanks to the condom he “always carried in his wallet”, it’s a complete experience. (Side rant: Guys carrying condoms in their wallets is just plain sleazy. Makes them look like they want to be ready to get laid at any given opportunity. Fine if they’re involved with someone, but if not, it’s a turn-off.)

Kate, however, wakes up the next morning full of the usual doubts: she can’t handle a short-term affair, he’s not really interested in her, it was all a mistake, it will never happen again, blah, blah.

Frankly, Kate bored me with her cookie-cutter problems. She’s such a quivering heap of insecurities that it’s nearly impossible to understand why Zack has the least interest in her besides the usual “she’s beautiful” stuff. Zack, for his part, doesn’t believe in love, everyone he’s ever cared about has left him, etc. They were by far the least interesting couple in the book.

Far more intriguing was the secondary romance between Kate’s mother, Ruth, and a cameraman from the film crew. When we first meet Ruth, she seems hell-bent on setting a record in the Annoyance category. She constantly totes binoculars and spends her days on the porch, spying on the neighborhood. It’s only later in the book that we find out her real reasons for this odd behavior, and it’s poignant and realistic. Her victory in the romance department is just what she deserves. Ruth would have made a fine lead on her own.

Kate’s daughter, Skye, is a delightful character. Here the author hits just the right note for a young teenager who is trying to find a right path to take, but making some poor decisions on the way. I liked her.

Ooh, La La! ends up having a mediocre romance at its center, but the captivating secondary plot lines may make it worth your while.

--Cathy Sova

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