Reinventing Romeo

Romancing Riley

Stranded at Cupid's Hideaway

Guilty Little Secrets by Connie Lane
(Dell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-23746-7
Guilty Little Secrets is the perfect name for this book. Everyone has a secret and is masquerading as something else. The heroine is a government agent masquerading as a showgirl and the hero is an agent masquerading as a stripper. Even the book is in disguise. Itís chick lit suspense disguised as a romance novel. The book needs a better costumer designer.

Rosie Malone is an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, aka the ATF. On the trail of some stolen Russian weapons, Rosie is undercover as a showgirl in Las Vegas. While trying to get information from an informant, Rosie is literally swept off her feet by Mack, who knocks her out of (or into, depending on whoís talking) the way of an SUV bent on running her down.

Mack, who like Cher has no last name, is the clubís new stripper. Rosie suspects heís something more. He is, but not what she thinks. Mack is actually working on the same investigation as Rosie. Mack suspects Rosie is involved in the crime ring as well and not in a good way. Itís time for some fun with undercover agents suspecting each other.

The plot goes a little something like this. Rosie and/or Mack thinks about the case. Mack does his strip routine while Rosie gets hot and bothered. Action sequence involving bad guys, followed by Rosie and Mack having a pissing contest over who gets to save who from the bad guys (all while not disclosing the other is a professional). Description of Rosieís showgirl costume du jour while Mack lusts after Rosie. They have sex. Rosie and/or Mack has some introspection about how they shouldnít get involved with a potential suspect. A couple paragraphs of dull description about the case.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Itís not very interesting, particularly since most of the sex happens off screen. In one instance, a new chapter starts and the reader is surprised to find out itís the next day and Rosie is worried about how she had sex with Mack. She did? Where? Flip back a few pages, oh there it is but they cut out right at the good part. Perhaps itís voyeuristic, but I prefer to read about the action as it takes place, not find out in wistful thoughts the next day.

Rosie and Mack are rehashes of the standard contemporary characters. Rosie is the straight-laced, conservative daughter in a family of earth crunchy hippies. Mack is the tough kid from the streets, taken in by one of the cops who arrests him and turns his life around. Of course, both are drop dead gorgeous.

Aside from their blandness, one also finds a hard time finding any kind of basis for their relationship. When they arenít lusting after each other, they are bickering and having scintillating dialogue along the lines of ďThis is my investigation. Your investigation? Itís my case. No, itís not itís MY case. Mine! No Mine! No MINE!Ē So when Rosie suddenly realizes she is in love with Mack and thinks ďWhen did this happen?Ē the reader is thinking the exact same thing.

The repetitive plot is interrupted only once by an incredibly bizarre sequence of events. Rosie and Mack get handcuffed together and find themselves on a bus to Fresno. This bus is populated by the Senior Citizens Kinky Sex club. Ok, I made that up but I canít figure out what else they were. The wacky oldies mistake Rosie and Mack for newlyweds and make it their mission to provide them with a honeymoon. It just gets stranger and stranger, until Rosie and Mack finally get back to Las Vegas. One supposes it was supposed to be a little slapstick humor but it was so out there that it made one wonder if perhaps it was part of another book accidentally stuck in the middle of this one.

There really is nothing romantic about Guilty Little Secrets. Little time is spent on the development of a real relationship between Rosie and Mack. The undercover agent aspect is cute and will likely appeal to fans of that type of story. To this reviewer, however, itís a clear example of romance selling out to mainstream chick lit.

--Anne Bulin

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