Reinventing Romeo

 
Romancing Riley by Connie Lane
(Dell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-23596-0
**
Romancing Riley is the latest in the "madcap contemporary" romance lineup. Riley Callahan, daughter of a Mick-Jagger-style rock star, is hellbent on clearing her father's name and proving he's not guilty of tax evasion. Her dad is in self-imposed exile in Tibet, hiding out from the feds, who aren't all that interested in catching him anyway. Riley, to support herself, works as a "shopper" for the Witness Protection Program. Two people, including her father's business agent, have ended up dead, and the feds have assigned Charlie "Zap" Zapalowski to trail Riley and see if she is leaking information.

It certainly seems possible. In chapter one, Riley returns some merchandise to an upscale store and, displaying an incredible lack of smarts and a very big mouth, blurts out all the details of her job to a handsome stranger. Her reasoning? He's good-looking and wears a suit. Of course, any reader above the age of ten will instantly figure out he's a bad guy and Riley has just put herself into danger. Charlie shows up, tells Riley he's been hired as a bodyguard by her father, Max, and promptly saves Riley's life when Mr. Suit breaks into her apartment and tries to kill her. Now Charlie and Riley are on the run.

Except Riley keeps trying to run away from Charlie. First she's gotta get to Philadelphia, where she might find a clue as to her dad's hidden millions, like where the business agent stashed them before he died. Then she's gotta get to Pittsburgh. When Charlie tries to reason with her, she abandons him at a rest stop and tries to hitchhike with any trucker willing to take her. It was about this point that I mentally stuck an "Idiot" sticker on Riley's forehead.

The story roars down the road from here. Riley hooks up with a bar band, giving her a chance to sing a hot song in a bar and make Charlie all sweaty. Charlie takes her home to his parents' place, where Mom sees the "good girl" underneath. The final shift is to Graceland and a bunch of Elvis impersonators. Oh, and in trying to escape notice by the bad guys, Riley takes off in a pink Cadillac.

To be honest, Romancing Riley wore me out. Riley herself, all tattoos, spiked hair, and easy-sex attitude, was nobody I particularly cared about. We're told that she's the product of a rock-star upbringing, she's been divorced twice, into drugs, out of drugs, etc. but for a twenty-eight-year-old, she is remarkably aimless and borderline useless. One longs to slap her and say "You don't like your life? Fine, get a new one!" Oh, but she has a great body and knows how to use it to get what she wants.

Charlie, for his part, is a bit too dazzled by Riley for comfort. He's supposed to be investigating her, but quickly decides that Riley couldn't have had anything to do with the murders, mainly because she's got that great body and a hint of vulnerability. Having said that, he's really a pretty great guy. And his attempts to show Riley that making love is much more than having sex are charming. If anyone can set Riley on a different path, it's Charlie.

Riley does start to grow up toward the end of the book, and by the climax, I could almost believe that these two were going to make it. What would have convinced me would have been more interaction between these two and less running around the country in that pink Cadillac.

If you like Road Romances with the kooky-female-meets-straight-arrow-hero storyline, you may well like Romancing Riley. A little less road and a little more romance would have helped this story come alive.

--Cathy Sova


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