Friday, April 16, 2010

Mr. Charming by Nancy J. Parra

TITLE: Mr. Charming
AUTHOR: Nancy J. Parra
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 58k)
GENRE: Romantic suspense
COST: $6.00

When her cop brother shows up on Jennifer Sumner’s doorstep requesting her help, she can’t turn him down...even though it means hiding playboy Kane McCormick in her home. The world thinks Kane is dead, but when it becomes clear the explosion meant to kill him was deliberately set, all he wants is to find the person responsible. The last thing he expects is to fall for the single mother keeping him safe in the interim…

Romantic suspense is a tricky genre. It’s very difficult to build smart suspense without sacrificing the characters, and still finding time to create a romance. This short novel from Wild Rose fails on all three counts.

Divorced Jennifer Sumner is a talk show psychologist, raising her son in suburbia, working out of her basement, all in a semblance of hiding away from the tabloids that tore into her when her marriage fell apart. Kane McCormick is a playboy who should have died in a plane crash, and now, thanks to Jennifer’s brother, is hiding out in her house while the cops try and figure out the truth. Their attraction is immediate. While I had hopes at the start, it fizzled quickly as both characters failed to gain any sort of depth. In Jennifer’s case, her behaviors became so annoying and idiotic, I genuinely loathed her.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a heroine who was just so genuinely Too Stupid to Live. When it becomes clear that the killer has found them, her actions become so ridiculous, I almost wished she’d get found and put out of my misery. She’s a single mother, the sole caretaker of a six-year-old boy. Yet, when their lives are threatened, when they are almost caught in an explosion of their own and in fact have to be checked out by EMTs because they are so close to it, does she proceed to do everything she can to protect him? No. When her brother and Kane insist she needs to go into a safe house, she stamps her foot and refuses, stating she refuses to take her son out of his normal routine. Forget that her son has just witnessed someone get blown up. Forget the fact that she’s supposedly this amazing psychologist and yet doesn’t even consider that her child might be even a little bit afraid because of everything that’s been going on. She has to literally be carried out of her own house, even after her own six-year-old comes to her with a packed bag because he sees the wisdom in hiding more than she can. I suppose someone might argue that after she'd been hounded by the tabloids/press during her divorce, she'd be skittish about any kind of exposure, but come on. Exposure versus a killer who has made it clear your son is in danger? How is that even comparable? It's not, if the woman is any kind of a decent mother. She wants to protect her child, then she damn well better do it.

I won’t even touch on how adamant she is against casual sex and relationships, and yet decides she’s in love with Kane barely two days into his stay, with nothing more happening between them than a little bit of flirting and small touches.

Kane’s not stupid, but he is entirely flat. The secondary characters are richer than he is, including the little boy. The story isn’t helped by the suspense getting telegraphed early on. Why the author feels the need to repeat a great deal of what occurred during the villain’s expositional scenes in the dialogue of the climax is beyond me.

In the end, I just can’t recommend this. Even if Jennifer didn’t come across as a self-centered, frigid idiot, the lack of any depth or complexity in either the plot or the characters keep it from being even marginally satisfying.


7/10 – Simplistic suspense and unexpected instances of headhopping mar clean prose


4/10 – Lacks any kind of depth


2/10 – Almost defines too stupid to live

Entertainment value

3/10 – Hated the heroine, couldn’t understand how they could fall in love, and even more reasons not to like this

World building

6/10 – Only the suburbia part of it felt in any way real



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