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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Risky Business

*** Risky Business by Merline Lovelace. Women's fiction.

Sue Ellen Carson has been divorced twice and now enjoys a no-strings friendly affair with Air Force pilot "Crash." She's the Department of Labor's chief of employment and training in Pensacola, meaning that, among other things, she approves--or disapproves--funding for training programs. And she's disapproved the STEP program devised by USAF Chief Master Sergeant Joe Goodwin. Specifically, she's disapproved the "surivival" portion of the program.

But now Joe has pulled some strings and Sue Ellen's boss has ordered her to experience the program for herself, so city girl Sue Ellen is off to the wilderness, mentoring a sullen teenage girl Rose, and fighting her attraction to Joe.

Despite Lovelace's genius for making characters and settings come to life--and she really does that, even in a mediocre story: the characters are absolutely real, and the scenes were all vividly depicted--there is nothing at all new or surprising about this story.

It's a fish-out-of-water story, a rescuing-a-troubled-teen story, and a woman-discovering-she-needs-a-real-man story.

Sue Ellen's discomfort with the great outdoors is occasionally amusing, but it falls short--it's not played up enough to be really funny; she does some things that are just stupid; and some mistakes she makes are criticized far more than they merit.

The story of Rose, the troubled teen Sue Ellen mentors, is likewise less involved than it could be. Everything's pretty much smooth sailing--there's no real suspense or even concern from the reader when the inevitable difficulties arise, because it's all resolved quite easily.

As for the romance part, that's left mostly until the very end, and not given much story time. Joe's a wonderful character, and more could have been done with him. He's in a state of transition: retiring from the Air Force, starting a program for troubled teens--IMO, it would have been a better book if it had been Joe's book rather than Sue Ellen's, because all there was of Sue Ellen's story was learning that she did actually want more than just a friendly, no-strings affair.

Basically, with an extra 50 - 100 pages, changing the focus from Sue Ellen to Joe, and making Rose's problems more emotionally charged, this could have been an excellent story. As it is, I felt I'd read it all before, and found it pretty forgettable.

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Hi, Darla -

Sorry Risky Business didn't do it for you. I had fun with the book, tho. And I'm embarrassed to admit, some of Sue Ellen's dumb mistakes were based on my limited experience in the Great Outdoors.

All my best,

Ouch. Sorry about that. I should have left in the caveat about this not being my genre.

I meant what I said about the way you make the characters and settings come to life, though, and I've got several more of your books in my TBR mountain because of that.
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