Friday, June 5, 2009

The Dating Game by Stephanie-Anne Street

TITLE: The Dating Game
AUTHOR: Stephanie-Anne Street
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 33k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $4.50

Fenella Grant runs a dating service called Discreet Liaisons, but when a woman buys a year-long membership for her serial dating brother, Fen suddenly finds herself interested in one of her own clients. James McAllister is about to turn forty, has no desire for a serious relationship, and is incredibly annoyed that his sister is meddling into his personal life. Until he speaks to Fen the first time on the phone. Suddenly, he’s intrigued by someone entirely different than his normal type, but Fen has her own secrets and valid reasons that keep him at arms’ length…

It was time for a contemporary after my recent spate of historicals (though I have another historical for review next week), so I chose a sweet one from Wild Rose Press. I have a rather hit or miss record with this particular e-pub, though I can almost always count on it for offering something that at least sounds interesting. In this case, it was the promise of a disabled heroine crossing paths with a serial dater.

Fen is an ex-ballerina who was nearly killed in a hit-and-run a year earlier. She has spent the past year rebuilding her life and learning how to walk again, and at the start of the story, is managing with crutches and a lot of pain medication. She’s strong without being overbearing, and seems terribly normal and level-headed in spite of her illustrious career. I never really understood why she was so amused at James’ blustering and belligerent attitude when he tries to get out of the date she sets up, but it’s not something that stopped me from liking her as a character. James, actually, comes across as even more likable, though his introduction to the reader is less than stellar. I really enjoyed his determination to find out what the deal was with Fen, and if I didn’t completely buy his emotional dedication so swiftly, that’s just because the author did too good of a job setting him up as a serial dater first.

While the romance itself was sweet and amusing enough, it never delved deep enough for me to truly believe that these characters had any kind of real future. Fen seemed too much like the one he couldn’t get rather than “the one,” while her increasingly desperate measures to hide her disability from him doesn’t bode well for an honest future. Because this is obviously meant as a Christmas offering, however (the entire book takes place in December and over the Christmas holiday), I’m probably much more forgiving of a certain wholesome quality to their relationship. On that level, it certainly works. I just read this outside of the feel-too-good holiday season, and so, it doesn’t work quite as well as the author probably hoped. Toss in the fact that I was thrown for a loop about the location (London isn’t even mentioned by name until page 53), and the fact that Fen’s dating service has only been open for two months and yet, has this thriving customer base (one woman has been on quite a few dates already), and I’m left wishing the book had been longer to better explore the realms of possibility, rather than rush to a happy ending. Still, it was a pleasant escape for the short time it took. Just not an entirely satisfying one.


8/10 – Simple and unassuming, though the lack of a definite setting for the beginning jarred me when I realized it was London


7/10 – Likable, and while his determination is romantic, it’s never really explained


6/10 – Her amused reaction and then subsequent leaps of logic seem out of the blue, but she’s likable nonetheless

Entertainment value

6/10 – Amusing, but doesn’t develop the romance as much as I would have liked

World building

6/10 – The lack of place detail at the beginning was disorienting, and I found some details (like the fact her agency had only been open for 2 months and yet she had this huge client base) unrealistic



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