Desert Isle Keeper
How to Trap a Tycoon
Frankly, “screwball comedy” are two words that normally make me run a mile. But if I take a minute to think about it, I realize that this extreme reaction has more to do with the multitude of bad screwball books and movies out there these days than it does with the genre itself. Think movies like Harvey and Arsenic and Old Lace and – most appropriately for this book – How to Marry a Millionaire, the delicious 1950s story of three husband-hunting gold diggers, and you’ll understand just what I’m talking about.
How to Trap a Tycoon belongs right up there with the greats of screwball comedy. A comfort read for me since its publication in 2000, it’s a tale of hidden identities, monumental secrets, and big laughs that richly deserves its still-in-print status after five long years. And, despite the fact that some of the holes in the plot are a bit on the wide side, it makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.
So just how wide are those plot holes? Let’s get the biggest out of the way right now: Our heroine successfully disguises herself from our hero (even after they’ve slept together!) with a wig, a sexy wardrobe, and some makeup. But wait there’s more! See, in her sexy alter-ego she’s famous – Harry Potter level famous – for writing a best-selling book taking the country by storm called (you guessed it) How to Trap a Tycoon. Still with me? Let’s move on to the many reasons why I love this book.
It’s smart. The dialogue between heroine Dorsey MacGuinness and hero Adam Darien feels exactly like what it’s supposed to be: Lightning-charged clashes of two formidably smart people hopelessly attracted to each other despite their sharply differing world views. As the publisher and founder of a successful men’s magazine, Adam is the very epitome of the self-satisfied bachelor content with his serial bimbos and expensive toys – well, that is until he starts to realize just how much he looks forward to his daily clashes with bartender Dorsey. During their evening exchanges at his (wouldn’t you know it?) mens’ club, he and the married (or so he thinks) graduate student and passionate feminist he calls “Mack” discuss the merits of Jaguars vs. Porsches (Adam went with the latter), sexual politics, the woeful status of women in our patriarchical society, and why Dorsey despises just about everything about Adam’s “elitist” and “sexist” publication.
Not surprisingly considering Adam’s status as a true tycoon well worth trapping, he’s none too pleased with the runaway success of author Lauren Grable-Monroe’s (Dorsey’s pseudonym is derived from the names of the actresses who starred in How to Marry a Millionaire) handbook offering women step-by-step instructions on how to marry their way to a life of leisure. “Victim” that he is, Adam vows to discover just what credentials Ms. Grable-Monroe has warranting her status as the “self-appointed social guru of today’s women” and then to expose her as the fraud she is in the pages of his magazine. Since keeping her identity secret is crucial to her job as a teaching assistant at a women’s college, not to even mention the damage the truth would do to her credibility as a serious scholar, Dorsey is understandably less than pleased with Adam’s plans.
It’s anything but shallow. Despite all the laughs, both Dorsey and Adam are real, three-dimensional characters with back stories that ring true. Dorsey’s extreme mother issues gives credence to both her passionate feminism and her choice of sociology as a career. Mom, you see, is a sort of a professional mistress and the genius – and that’s just how Mother Carlotta sees it – behind the best seller she co-authored with her daughter. Despite the fact that she despises everything about Tycoon and the man-hunting it espouses, Dorsey agrees to write the book and act as the author “front” for the two in order to earn the money her mother needs for her future security.
Adam, admittedly, in sharp contrast to Dorsey, is a bit of a fantasy figure – rich, handsome, smart, and with a happy and privileged childhood behind him – but, despite all the gloss, he always feels like a real “guy” in the true Dave Barry style. In a very tangible sense, Adam represents both what we love and what we hate about “guys” and the book is all the more fun for it.
It’s sexy. And not just in the usual hot sex scene kind of way. Maybe this is a book that just happens to ring all my bells just perfectly, but try this on for size:
“In the pale light filtering through the half-open window blinds, she got her first look at him in dishabille. Her insides turned to warm butter at viewing such a sight first thing in the morning. His broad, naked chest was dusted from shoulder to shoulder with dark-brown hair, hair that arrowed downward to disappear into the waistband of his pajama bottoms. His belly was as flat and firm as a steam iron, and his arms were corded with muscle and sinew. His hair was adorably rumpled and his eyes were lit with warm affection. He had the fat Sunday edition of the Tribune tucked under one arm, and she couldn’t help thinking that he meant to spend the entire morning sharing his bounty with her right here in his bed. The mahogany sleigh bed that was surrounded by all manner of luxurious furniture and accessories, from the matching wardrobe and armoire to the richly patterned Oriental rugs scattered about beneath. The walls were painted a deep forest-green, adorned here and there by oil-on-canvas renditions of the English countryside.
The effect, on the whole, was one of enormous wealth and lush hedonism. And as Dorsey watched Adam draw nearer, carrying his sumptuous feast, surrounded by his luxurious belongings, one thought – and one thought alone – circled through her head: Oh, I could get used to this. I could get used to this very easily.“
Oh, so could I, Dorsey. So could I.
It works. The madcap plot. The hilarious, blisteringly intelligent exchanges. The smart, always likable heroine and the hero who just about defines the words “to die for”. (He’s so perfect he even thinks she looks cute in her Birkenstocks!) For me, it all comes together perfectly in a book I’ve turned to again and again over the last five years.
As someone who pretty much always enjoys Elizabeth Beverly’s unique voice, How to Trap a Tycoon represents the author at her very, very best. And while, admittedly, this isn’t a book to examine too closely, it is undeniably one to savor. And, in case you can’t tell by now, do I ever.