The Hoodwinked Bride

Magic Slippers

When Lightning Strikes Twice

Forever Flint by Barbara Boswell
(Silh. Desire #1243, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76243-7
Barbara Boswell’s Forever Flint is based on an amusing premise. What happens when a dedicated city girl finds herself spending two weeks roughing it with five outdoorsmen? Silhouette Desire’s “Man of the Month” for October 1999 gets off to a lively start but is unable to sustain that sparkle throughout the whole book.

Ashlinn Carey, senior editor at “Tour & Travel” is dismayed and infuriated when she is assigned to write a story about a two-week camping trip to the Black Hills of North Dakota. She has either to stick with this assignment or quit her job…an outcome that would make her new boss very happy.

Flint Paradise, the 33-year-old owner of Paradise Outdoors Company and organizer of the expedition, was expecting to meet Asher Carey at the airport; he is flabbergasted when Asher turns out to be Ashlinn. Asher Carey was going to be one of five male travel writers accompanying Flint on this expedition; he hopes their stories will move his catalog sales company into the international arena.

Neither Flint nor Ashlinn can afford to back out of the trek so Flint finds himself heading into the Black Hills…or is it the Bad Hills?…Ashlinn isn’t sure…with four ultra-macho travel writers and a woman whose idea of roughing it is staying in a bed and breakfast where the beds are lumpy.

As Ashlinn, the four other travel writers -- one each from Australia, France, Argentina, and Japan -- and Flint travel from Sioux Falls to Custer State Park, the author uses Ashlinn’s point-of-view quite effectively. Boswell had me chuckling as she contrasted Ashlinn’s reactions to the great outdoors with the reactions of the four “international risk-takers.”

During the trip and as the six set up their first camp, the other four travel writers make it clear that any trip that doesn’t entail drinking snake’s blood while dodging bullets is their equivalent of a day at the beach. For their part, Ashlinn and Flint find that the physical attraction they felt at their first meeting is strengthened by the “us-against-them” feelings provoked by the other four.

That night, however, Flint decides that since he is the leader of the expedition and Ashlinn is dependent on him, it would be unethical of him to pursue a more intimate relationship. As the same time, an off-hand remark Flint made…one I found innocuous…somehow convinced Ashlinn that Flint was indeed uninterested in her.

Such misunderstandings are a staple of the romance genre and…in situations like the one in which Flint and Ashlinn find themselves initially…can be realistic and even interesting. To repeat the misunderstanding at the end of the camping trip, after Flint and Ashlinn have had two weeks to get to know each other, is less interesting and more of an authorial device.

The Ashlinn I liked in the first third of the book vanished for most of the rest of the story. The new Ashlinn makes such hurtful remarks to Flint that I would have sympathized had he rejected her forever. Flint was more attractive -- confused about what he feels but still more sensitive than most men would have been to Ashlinn’s motivations and feelings.

When Boswell flashed forward from the first day of the expedition to the last, with almost no detail on the intervening two weeks, she gave herself no chance to develop the characters of the four male travel writers. Too bad. They had fine comic potential, and I would like to have seen how their friendship with Ashlinn -- mentioned later in the story -- developed.

The conventional nature of Flint and Ashlinn’s ensuing problems and Ashlinn’s role in compounding her own difficulties were a disappointment after the promising beginning of Forever Flint.

--Nancy J. Silberstein

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