Plum Girl

Blushing Pink by Jill Winters
(Onyx, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-452-41090-4
Blushing Pink, Jill Wintersí sophomore effort, is the story of twenty-seven-year-old Reese Brock, whose sister Ally is about to be married. To quote the back blurb, Reese is

...Ētrapped in a Ph.D program she canít stand, the bookstore she loved as a customer has turned loathsome since she became a part-time employee there, and as her meddlesome mother is fond of pointing out, she is undeniably single.Ē

You know a book is in trouble when the blurb makes the heroine sound like a sniveling doormat. This blurb is, unfortunately, dead on.

Reese kissed Brian Doren two years ago at a New Years party and has been half in love with him ever since. When she finds out that Brian is the best man at the wedding, Reese basically comes unglued, acting more like a thirteen-year-old than a woman heading for thirty. She decides that the best way to get him to notice her is to pretend he doesnít exist. Real mature. Brian, for his part, muses that heíd forgotten how cute Reese was, and has it really been two years since heís seen her? (Question: if she was so cute, and that one kiss so hot, why didnít he call her? Honestly, these characters. ďDuhĒ on parade.)

The book is loosely structured around Reese and Brian trying to get to know each other as the wedding draws nearer, but itís difficult because if one of them isnít in high dudgeon, the other is, not to mention making all sorts of wrong assumptions about each otherís love life. Reese is sort of dating a college geek whom she doesnít even like, but decides to use it to twit Brian. Brian is dealing with his sisterís advanced pregnancy and supporting her because her no-good boyfriend ran off. Brian also has an ex-fiancťe hanging around and he canít make up his mind whether or not to get back together with her. Reeseís mother bosses her around and schemes to get her eldest daughter a man. Her co-workers and boss are so unbelievably obnoxious that they could only exist within the pages of a novel striving for humor (and failing) or on a bad TV sitcom.

Iím not saying every heroine has to come on like Xena, Warrior Princess. But I got the feeling Reese couldnít tell anyone to kiss off if her life depended on it, and itís just not funny. Readers who manage to make it to the end of the book will find that Reese does get her dander up, at least for a few pages. But itís a looonnnggg wait.

So whatís the real problem here? The book simply tries too hard, and laughs generated at the expense of the main characters usually arenít funny. Most women nearing thirty are capable and at least somewhat self-assured. Reese appears to be neither, and rather than eliciting chuckles, she elicits exasperation. Whatís funny about a stammering, blushing, socially inept doormat?

There are a couple of fairly hot sex scenes, hot enough that I rated this book an R, though it may not seem all that strong to some people. More graphic language than anything else. Humor being as subjective as it is, you may find Blushing Pink to be quite amusing, but my advice is proceed with caution.

--Cathy Sova

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