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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Extreme Bachelor

****½ Extreme Bachelor by Julia London. Contemporary romance.

This is the second book in the Thrillseekers Anonymous trilogy, following Wedding Survivor (#14).

Five years ago, Leah was an up-and-coming actress on Broadway, and she and Michael were living together, happy. So when Michael said he had something to tell her, she thought: marriage proposal. Instead, he broke up with her. She spent some time being depressed, then she finally decided to make the move to Hollywood and get on with her life.

Now, Leah's Hollywood career isn't going very well--she's only been in a couple of commercials. Then she lands a part in War of the Soccer Moms. Preparation for filming involves a "boot camp" run by the stunt coordinators, Thrillseekers Anonymous.

Which is fine, until Michael shows up. His reputation as the "extreme bachelor" precedes him. It seems that his T.A. buddies noticed his reaction to seeing Leah in a commercial and decided to play matchmaker. And oh, by the way, wouldn't it be fun if a few of his other ex-flames showed up as well?

Turns out, Michael used to be a CIA agent, and that (along with a general fear of commitment) was behind the break-up. But when he tries to tell Leah this, she doesn't believe him.

This isn't just a light-hearted romantic comedy. It has some very funny parts--a lot of them centered around Michael being rather uncomfortable--but there's too much pain between Leah and Michael for it to be a simple, comfortable read.

Most of that is Michael's personality. He's not the usual romance hero. He screwed up--granted, he'd convinced himself he had good reasons--but he didn't spend those five years berating himself in celibacy. I think it's a romance rule that heroes, once they meet the heroine, and particularly once they've slept with her, must be incapable of performing with another woman. Michael didn't do that. He did realize that he screwed up, but he kept looking for a replacement. And looking. And looking.

But then Leah isn't the usual romance heroine, either. For one thing, she's (if I'm reading it correctly) pear-shaped. At any rate, she has wide-ish hips. But the biggest difference is that after the break-up, she got depressed.

Ever notice how you take some fictional conventions for granted until you read a book that breaks those conventions? That's what happened to me with Extreme Bachelor. I'd recognized (and complained about!) the celibate heroes before, but until I found myself surprised that Leah hadn't picked herself up and become a huge success after the break-up, I didn't realize how much of a cliche that was, or how much more realistic Leah's story was.

Let's face it. In Leah's situation, how many of us would get angry and use that anger to become The Best at whatever? Sure, I'd like to think I would, but realistically? It's damn depressing. I'm all for characters in books behaving in ways I wish I would, but it's refreshing to see one behaving the way I actually would. Setting the story 5 years after the break-up, so that Leah has had time to recover from the depression kept her from being a victim heroine, and made her a heroine I could pull for.

Both Leah and Michael were more appealing for me because they didn't behave ideally. They were more like real people. They learned from their past mistakes, discovered that love requires trust, and learned to trust each other. It's all the more appealing of a love story because it feels authentic.

I'm looking forward to the last book in the trilogy, American Diva, in August.


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I really like Julia London's contemporary novels. I am looking forward to the next book in the trilogy very much...although I don't think the cover fits with the other books in the series!
Darla - I agree with you about the characters. Especially Michael. I think that is one of the reason I like him -- he does realized his mistake and trying to make up for it. It was a good story.

I agree with Marg, the third book cover don't even match. But Julia London did said, it something that her publsher want to try...*shrug*
Yes, I'm rather annoyed with Berkley about the American Diva cover, too--not to mention that fact that they switched to trade paperback in the middle of a trilogy! Middle of a series, I could understand, but not a trilogy. Argh.

Still, it's not the author's fault. Wonder if the eventual mass-market paperback will have a cover to match Wedding Survivor and Extreme Bachelor?
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