Talk Gertie To Me
by Lois Winston
(Lovespell, $7.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52684-0
**
Well, this author has a big voice, for sure, which probably explains why she’s been so successful at contests. Unfortunately, she’s not telling a story with it – she’s just talking and talking and talking…. Kinda like her heroine.

Nori Stedworth is having a bad day. First, she spends two hundred bucks (and way too much time) buying tickets to a wrestling show at a wrestling theme restaurant near New York’s Times Square. Nori hates wrestling, but she loves Dave and Dave wants the tickets for his 30th birthday. After escaping the restaurant, Nori spills part of a burrito on herself, then is splashed with “gutter goop” by a passing limo. Dave’s apartment is nearby, so she decides to go there and clean up, only to find him naked in the Jacuzzi with Nori’s best friend – make that former best friend – Suz.

Nori goes home to her tiny Village basement – sorry, garden-level – apartment and finds her mother on the doorstep. Connie Stedworth has run away from home, tired of canning prize-winning pickled beets, decoupaging napkins onto purses and taking a distant second place in her husband’s life to his job as mayor of Ten Commandments, Iowa.

Nori decides to take the rest of the day off, but when she phones DataScroungers, the online research firm where she works, she’s told to get to the office. There, she finds that the company is going out of business and she’s out of a job.

That flurry of activity takes us to page 44. Then, Nori and her friends go out to the bar and talk about it. Then Nori tells her imaginary friend, Gertie, about it. Then, unable to face listening to her mother “unburden” herself about her marital difficulties, Nori takes her laptop to a nearby coffee shop and types up the details.

Okay, I get it already. Nori’s having a bad day. A really, really bad day. Believe it or not, telling me the same joke four times doesn’t make it funnier.

Since the book is written in the first person, the repetitive tedium is embellished with lots and lots of Nori’s slangy, wise-cracking commentary, which I guess is supposed to be funny. Nori isn’t what you’d call deep, but the Gertie alter ego would have made her really interesting – if Gertie had ever told Nori anything she didn’t already know. Unfortunately, Gertie is just an excuse for twice as much slangy wisecracking, which means that it’s twice as annoying.

The cover copy tells us that this book is about Nori’s newfound success as a radio commentator, except that Nori doesn’t become a radio personality until nearly two-thirds of the way through the book. Sorry, but a 175 page prologue isn’t a story, it’s filler.

And speaking of filler, I should also mention that there is a subplot revolving around Nori’s mother, also told in the first person. She stumbles into a career as America’s new crafts diva, apparently because rich people are stupid enough to buy anything if it’s hyped enough.

And I have no idea why I’m supposed to care. About any of it. There’s no plot, nothing is at stake, it’s just people wandering around complaining about stuff.

All of this would be moot, of course, if the book included a good romance, but it doesn’t. In fact, Nori and Mac spend very little time together. After one kiss and a dinner he tells her (again, nearly two-thirds of the way through the book) that he intends to father her children (huh?) and 50 pages later they suddenly can’t keep their hands off each other and fall into bed. The love scene is rushed, perfunctory and riddled with clichés. It has no emotional impact, and no erotic heat. Telling me that they “out-Kama Sutra’d the Kama Sutra” is not compelling. Showing me what they did to each other that was so hot would have gotten my attention.

To ensure that there’s absolutely no emotional impact at all, in the end all the characters decide they’ve been making a big deal out of nothing and they should just get over it. Heck, I could have told them that on page 40.

-- Judi McKee


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