Good Girls Don't

Real Women Don’t Wear Size 2
by Kelley St. John
(Warner, $6.50, R) ISBN 0-446-61721-0
Soon-to-be-thirty Clarise Robinson has built a successful career as a top saleswoman and head of the Women’s Department at Eubanks Elegant Apparel. Clarise, not being a size two, specializes in discovering beautiful clothing that fits plus-sized women. But as the big 3-0 approaches, Clarise takes a look at her life and doesn’t like what she sees.

Oh, it’s not the weight (and the author doesn’t really have the courage of her convictions here – the impression is that Clarise is about a size 10, which could hardly be called plus sized). It’s the lack of a sex life, the sameness of her daily life, and her unrequited crush on her boss and best friend, Ethan Eubanks. The company is throwing the yearly employee retreat at the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, which is a sort of Florida Mardi Gras. Clarise has never attended, but this year, she decides to go, and leave her inhibitions behind.

Ethan is astonished to find Clarise in Tampa, drunkenly flashing her voluptuous “Robinson Treasures” at a pirate parade. Ethan hauls Clarise off to a hotel for her own good and to let her sober up. Clarise is too drunk to know whether they have sex or not. Ethan is fascinated. This is his pal Clarise? Who knew? Before he knows it, Ethan is falling for Clarise, and they’re deep in a hot affair and falling in love, though Clarise promises Ethan there will be no strings attached.

And here the author runs out of conflict and has to resort to a hackneyed device that just doesn’t work. Clarise’s younger sister, Babette, has always been the family hottie. Last year she attended the pirate festival in Clarise’s place. During that week of fun in the sun, Babette hooked up with Ethan, and now he’s terrified to tell Clarise about it. Which might have worked, but the author doesn’t have the nerve to play this one out straight. The whole thing ends up as a predictable Big Misunderstanding, with the usual histrionics when Clarise finds out “the truth.” Except the truth is no such thing, and Clarise won’t simply ask the question, “So, what DID go on between you two?” I’ll bet more than one reader will ditch the book when the ending rolls around. It’s a big nothing.

Which is a pity, because up until that point, this was a decent story of two friends who fall into bed and find out there is a lot more to their relationship than just friendship. Clarise, while not plus-sized, is certainly no stick insect. She’s a little insecure about her curves, but willing to try something new. Ethan is a good guy who is certainly inventive between the sheets, and the sex scenes are plenty spicy. I really wanted them to work it out.

Kelley St. John seems to have a natural voice for contemporary romance, and I’d gladly try another of her books. Real Women Don’t Wear Size 2 was 75% enjoyment and 25% exasperation, which leaves hope for her future releases.

--Cathy Sova

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