Always

Bliss

The Key

Lady Pirate

The Reluctant Reformer

The Switch

What She Wants

 
The Loving Daylights
by Lynsay Sands
(Love Spell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52527-5
**
The Loving Daylights, the most recent novel in the publisherís B.L.I.S.S. series, could be compared to Maxwell Smart (of the TV series Get Smart) and the Stepford wives meeting Stephanie Plum. Any similarity to real people in real situations behaving in rational, responsible ways is purely coincidental.

Jane Spyrus (Spy R Us, get it?) is an inventor for B.L.I.S.S., some kind of international crime-fighting, intelligence agency. She lives in Vancouver, B.C., with her wheelchair-bound grandmother Maggie, who was an agent for B.L.I.S.S. before she was disabled. Klutzy and a poor public speaker, Jane works for the Development and Creation Department (D & C, get it?). Raised from childhood to work for B.L.I.S.S., she feels she lacks the necessary qualities to be an agent. Most of her inventions have strong sexual overtones - shrink wrap condoms and neon pink vibrators that fire mini-missiles are two examples. One of Janeís co-workers is Richard Hedde, nickname Dick (dick head, get it?).

Janeís neighbor Edie Andretti is going out on a date and needs to borrow something from Jane. Jane is on her way out to walk her grandmotherís Yorkie Tinkle (because the pooch has an irritating mannerism, get it?), but invites Edie to take whatever she needs from her bathroom.

Abel Andretti (able and ready, get it?) shows up at Edieís apartment. He had waited for his sister to pick him up at the airport, but she never showed. An accountant presently residing in England, Abel believes something must have happened to Edie. He had a cryptic phone call with her that had aroused his suspicions. Jane begins to agree with Abel - itís not like Edie to disappear with no explanation. Fortunately, Edie had borrowed some experimental tracker tampons from Jane - the tracker will enable them to follow her.

Jane canít leave her grandmother alone so Abel, Jane, Maggie, the annoying Tinkle (she pees on good guysí pants and adores the bad ones), and Edieís cat all pile into a van and take off after Edie. They end up in California to find that Edie has been transported as a corpse in a hearse and is now hidden in the house belonging to Dirk Ensecksi (this one is such a stretch the author gives us the translation - dark and sexy, get it?) and his sister Lydia. Jane wonders if there is some kind of mind-control going on because all the women in town wear yellow dresses and the men wear Hawaiian shirts.

B.L.I.S.S. has had suspicions about the Ensecksis, father and son and daughter, and their possible goal of world domination. To the agencyís satisfaction, Maggie, Jane, and Abel are conveniently in place to investigate. Abel and Jane will pose as brother and sister, housesitting relatives of the Goodinovs (Jane good enough, get it?), in order to get the goods on the Ensecksis.

Thereís no doubt that The Loving Daylights puts a spin on the standard romance novel. Originality and humor should be positive aspects of a story, but not when they come at the cost of the plot and characterization. Here the humor is strained, and the double entendres are forced. Subtlety is road-kill in this book. (Too bad Tinkle isnít flat on the pavement, too.)

The romance is a sacrificial victim as well. For the most, Jane and Abel are united in their quest to locate and save Abelís sister. Any conflict between them over tactics is contrived. Then with practically no foundation, theyíre hot for each other. I can see these two as good friends eventually, but there didnít seem to be any sexual tension between them that could explain their becoming lovers.

Dirk Ensecksi and his sister are way over the top. Theyíre villains in the James-Bond-Evil-R-Us tradition - bad through and through. Dirkís come-on to Jane is so crude itís hard to imagine any woman might be attracted to this jerk.

I had to force myself to finish The Loving Daylights in order to review it. Itís a bad sign when a book repeatedly dwells on the pets doing annoying things. (A dog peeing on a manís pants is cute? I donít get it.) There are logic gaps in the plot one could drive a hearse through, and deciphering the hidden meaning in names interferes with the storyís pacing. There are a few amusing scenes, but by and large the humor is so heavy-handed that it lacks any charm.

If youíve got a weakness for silly puns, blatant sexual allusions, and corny situation comedy, you might find The Loving Daylights something different from the standard romance novel. If, however, you prefer books with a well-crafted plot and solid character development, you probably wonít want to get it.

--Lesley Dunlap


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