Every Woman's Fantasy

Gone With the Nerd

Manhunting in Montana

Nerd in Shining Armor

The Nights Before Christmas

Old Enough to Know Better

Pure Temptation

Single in the Saddle

Talk Nerdy to Me

 
Nerds Like It Hot
by Vicki Lewis Thompson
(St. Martin's, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-93908-6
***
When Hollywood make-up artist Gillian McCormick overhears a murder, she's understandably shaken. Even more so when she realizes the killer, Neil, has ties to the mob. Stuck between going to the police and saving her own neck, she reluctantly accepts her friend's offer to… go on a cruise? According to Cora, it's the perfect plan: Gillian can bleach her hair, mingle with the nerds on ship, and then slip off in Mexico. It's failsafe, sort of.

To ensure the plan goes off without a hitch, Cora enlists the help of two private investigators who just happen to owe her a few favors. Neither Lex nor Dante is too excited about the spending a week on a ship full of nerds, until they set their sites on their charge - a sexy blonde who just so happens to resemble Marilyn Monroe.

What none of them are counting on is that Nancy, their newfound cruise-ship friend just so happens to be none other than Neil himself. With a mind as sharp as his stiletto heel, Neil knows it's only a matter of time until Gillian turns him in. Now he just has to eliminate her before she talks to the cops.

Thompson's latest "Nerd" book just happens to be one of her best. I have to admit, after Nerd Gone Wild, my enthusiasm for the series waned. But the spark is back in Nerds Like It Hot. The chemistry between Lex and Gillian sizzles as both characters struggle to maintain their sexy facades - both fearing the other would run if they new the nerd who lurked beneath. Thompson does a great job of pairing sexual attraction with real emotional attachment.

One way this book separates itself from more recent "Nerd" releases is that Thompson starts to steer away from the stereotypes. Since the setting for the book is a nerd-themed singles cruise, I'd expected to see every nerd cliché in the book - and I did, but thankfully through the eyes of Dante and Lex, who quickly realize that thick black glasses and bad haircuts do not a nerd make. While some of the characters are a bit of a cliché - Jared the nerdy virgin cruise coordinator comes to mind - most of them are very well developed and show that nerdiness isn't about bad fashion sense, it's about brains.

The one thing that really bugged me about the book is Gillian's sudden fascination with astrology. She illogically assumes they aren't fated to be and starts searching Lex for signs of romance. Look, he's saving her life, he compromising his reputation to protect hers and is obsessed with keeping her safe. Who needs candlelight and roses when you have a man whose willing to die for you? It's frustrating for the reader when sensible Gillian goes off on a flight of fancy and fails to appreciate the smoking hot man sharing her bed. Honestly, I spent the last third of the book wanting to smack her silly, erm sillier than she already is, I mean.

What really redeems this one are the subplots. It's a singles cruise and everyone's hooking up - or trying to. Cora gets a sweet older couple love story, while Dante snags a nerd of his own. I do like a happy ending, and Thompson delivers.

Nerds Like It Hot isn't a groundbreaking piece of literature, but it isn't trying to be. The book is just what it sounds like: a cute little romp with a spicy adventure story thrown in.

--Amanda Waters


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