Wild Notion

X-treme Dating by Cathy McDavid
(Five Star, $26.95, PG) ISBN 1-59414-355-2
Here are a few obvious signs you’re not enjoying a book: (1) You ask several questions while reading, all starting with “Why?” (2) You repeatedly check the page number to see how much remains. (3) You realize that you read 1,000-plus pages of George Eliot’s Middlemarch in fewer weeks than you took to finish this book. Using this criteria, Cathy McDavid’s X-treme Dating is three for three.

Park Evenson is a firefighter who is about to go on a new reality dating show called X-treme Dating. She’s paired with Justin, and they spend the weekend playing for prizes. She had hoped he would be someone she would enjoy dating. Instead of being interested in Justin, she finds herself drawn toward Grant, the show’s camera operator.

Grant reciprocates Park’s interest, but Park signed a contract stating she wouldn’t become involved with anyone on the crew. For his part, Grant knows that he could be fired for pursuing Park. In fact, Natasha, the show’s co-producer, notices the attraction and cautions Grant against getting involved with Park.

It’s at this point in the story that the questions begin. Park and Justin are filming the program for one weekend. Why can’t Grant and Park set aside their feelings for one weekend? Why can’t they simply have a conversation where they talk about their feelings and plan to get together after the filming ends? The obvious answer to these questions is that this would be a much shorter book if that happened.

Adding to this reader’s frustration is the fact that much of Park’s thought process in the first part of the book is of the “Does Grant like me? I think he does, but I’m not sure” variety. Why don’t you just ask him?

As the story progresses, the reader learns that the success of this particular show depends on this one program. The episode featuring Park and Justin will determine whether there will be a second season of X-treme Dating. This is difficult to believe and makes the story seem overly dramatic.

For the most part, McDavid’s writing style is easy to read. However, there are some phrases that don’t quite work, like this one during a love scene: “[Grant] turned [Park] around inside the circle of his arms, his eyes fastened on her breasts. The blipping green line floating across Park’s sexual monitor spiked off the screen.” Yes, this is a unique way to convey desire, but I kept imagining Park hooked up to a machine to test her sexuality. This is not a romantic or sexy image. Moments like this made it all too easy for me to put the book down; it was difficult to pick up again.

Reality show buffs might be tempted to take a look at this book. But the characters and the depiction of the reality show world make X-treme Dating a book I suggest you avoid.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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