The very first thing I noticed about Christina Skye’s 2000 Kisses was that it was not Y2K compliant.
I started reading 2000 Kisses on New Year’s weekend – a romance novel with a Y2K tie-in seemed like the perfect thing to read at that point. But it also made a very basic mistake glaringly obvious: the action commences on Saturday, December 31, 1999 and continues on to Sunday, January 1 and Monday, January 2. Since I was in fact reading it on Friday, December 31, 1999, that was sort of hard to miss.
And it didn’t bode well for the rest of the book. Indeed, I was sorry to discover that what starts off as a potentially fun, if gimmicky, story ends up as a misguided mishmash of contemporary Western, romantic suspense, paranormal, and gentle small town romance a la Debbie Macomber.
The first two chapters show promise. Tess O’Mara is an events organizer who is just putting the finishing touches on a “millennium cruise.” She has no life outside of work, and a depressing lack of spontaneity. But a run-in with a mysterious man on New Year’s Eve leads her to make a wish for new adventure. The next day, a million dollars appears in her bank account. Like any red blooded American girl, Tess goes on a shopping spree that culminates in the purchase of a Mercedes convertible. Then the bad news hits: not only is the money not rightfully hers, it belongs to some very bad men. And they want it back.
Tess is off to Arizona to hide out, and that’s when the story abruptly degenerates into the same “city gal in a Western town falls for cowboy type” plot that has been done to the death. The hero, Sheriff T.J. McCall, is your basic taciturn hunk with a deadly aim, bedroom eyes, and a mysterious past. There is absolutely nothing new or compelling about him. And Tess, the picture of competence in organizing her New Year’s bash, suddenly develops a terrible case of tstl (too-stupid-to-live) syndrome. What’s the best thing to do if you are a greenhorn in the desert, recently recovered from a case of heat stroke, and hunted by bad guys who want to torture and kill you? Why, jump in the car and take off alone to climb an unstable rock formation, of course. But Tess has some good qualities. For example, she introduces latte to the benighted population of Almost, Arizona, apparently the last remaining place in the United States without a Starbuck’s.
This is one of those books where plot threads are introduced when needed to move the story along to the next key scene, then dropped without a trace. For example, the kindly townspeople conspire to keep Tess in town by faking a problem with her car. However, Tess isn’t trying to leave and apparently never gives a thought to what happened to her baby blue Mercedes for the rest of the book. On another occasion, T.J. has to shoot a man holding hostages. We are treated to the standoff and the shooting, just so T.J. can angst about it for 9.5 seconds later that night, and be comforted by Tess. Neither the hostages nor the angst are heard from again.
2000 Kisses simply never makes up its mind what it wants to be. It’s like a romance with attention deficit disorder. Among the many things never explained are the origin of the money in Tess’ account, the relevance of T.J.’s apparent past as a Secret Service agent, and what these two even see in each other besides good looks and great sex. Most egregiously, the author spends a great deal of time developing the suggestion that the Tess and T.J. are the reincarnations of a pair of doomed Indian lovers from centuries before. However, the truth of it (and what ultimately happened to the Indian lovers) is never made clear to either Tess or T.J., or to the reader.
This book has the elements of a passable, if unoriginal, story. In fact, it has the elements of several stories. But it never stays focused on one of those stories and ends up a disorganized mess. Y2K may have been a bit of a bust, but it still deserves a better commemoration than this weak, cliché-ridden book.