The majority of the characters in the screwball comedy Too Good To Be True are too madcap to make much of an impression on the reader. However, if you want pure love-and-laughter with just a modicum of suspense, you'll enjoy Kasey Michaels' follow-up to her debut contemporary, Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You.
Grady Sullivan has reluctantly taken on the job of bodyguard to crusty tycoon Archie Peevers, founder of a toilet paper dynasty. Archie is convinced that one of his greedy heirs is trying to kill him, and considering his selfish, irrational behavior, who wouldn't want to? Grady is not amused by Archie, his butler Dickens, the three Peevers progeny and their various spouses and paramours. But he's really peeved (sorry) when he meets Annie Kendall, who might be Archie's long-lost granddaughter. Or she might not. Archie, old but still sharp, has hired Annie to impersonate his recently discovered heir and, hopefully, to draw out the potential killer.
Before long, Grady is in the midst of a very confusing situation. It's not clear if Archie is the target of a potential murderer, or if he's playing a trick on everyone, Grady included. Annie readily admits to Grady that she's in cahoots with Archie in order to earn some badly-needed money, but there's something more that she's not telling. Despite her secret, Grady falls fast and hard for this sharp-witted, plucky woman who gives as good as she gets. So whom does he really have to protect - Archie or Annie? Both, or neither? It's a tough task when Grady can't even be sure if the danger is real, much less its source.
Too Good To Be True starts off on a zany note, and maintains a fast-paced near-hysteria, which is both a blessing and a curse for the reader. Ms. Michaels tries so hard to create a screwball atmosphere that she never takes a breath long enough to relax and create characters whom we care about or root for. Grady and Annie banter and engage in witty repartee from the moment they meet until the end of the novel, but other than a vague smile, they didn't evoke much of a reaction from me. Grady's supposed to be a confirmed bachelor, but he falls for Annie with nary a backward look at his playboy days. Annie is almost a total cipher until the end. She's a bundle of cute quirks without a core.
The other characters are over-the-top caricatures. Archie Peevers is Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, Dickens the butler is a dead ringer for John Gielgud in Arthur, and the family members are a motley crew of rejects from a Clue board game. Grady's assistant, Maisie, vamps her way through the novel, blithely ignoring Grady's endless, and empty, threats to fire her.
The story is cute, Grady and Annie are fun, and nobody takes anything seriously. There are some nice moments involving a stuffed animal, a sweet gesture on Grady's part, and a half-decent surprise at the end when Annie finally reveals her true identity. If you stop to think, you might wonder why Annie and Grady care about Archie, a poor excuse for a father who has psychologically destroyed his three children. But you're not really supposed to stop and think about this book, just skip blithely through it.
If you want a light-hearted romp with nary a tortured hero in sight, Too Good To Be True might be just good enough for you.