It’s official! Dead Sexy is Dead Funny. Initially I was a little leery of this Brit Chick Lit novel, which sat in my TBR pile for a while giving me the evil eye and throwing off postmodern feminist vibes. I was pleasantly surprised by how laugh-out-loud funny it is, and how intelligently and sensitively it is written.
When Shelly Green finds herself dragged onto a reality show contest called “Desperate and Dateless,” she doesn’t know whether to be curious to meet the supposedly-perfect man a computer has matched her with, or horrified that she is on public parade. When she actually wins the competition, events quickly suck her into a fake marriage with a boisterous American named Kit Kinkade, who is only in it for the money and who seems to have a hidden agenda. Of course, it takes Kit a lot of effort to con Shelly into participating, even if it is for a lot of money. They spend a highly-libidinous limo ride up to Scotland (the UK’s answer to Vegas, except without the casinos or in fact any sunshine at all) as he gets down on his knees (yep, that’s what I mean) to persuade her.
Shelly is bowled over by Kit’s racy efforts to get her to participate. They have a fake wedding and proceed to their honeymoon on the tropical island of Reunion, where they will hang out for a week in front of camera crews and get a second hefty check. But Kit starts playing hard-to-get despite the fact that Shelly is one giant raging hormone desperate to get next to Kit. As the debauched camera crew and the show’s evil host follow Shelly and Kit around, it becomes apparent that Kit is no longer eager to play along, and his almost virginal coyness in holding out made for a hilarious role reversal as Shelly does her utmost to seduce him, confused by the mixed signals sends her way.
Shelly and Kit are polar opposites in their attitude to relationships and love. Kit it seems is a dashing, superficial himbo with interestingly different ideas on love and life. On the other hand, Shelly is deeply suspicious about men and love in general. She’s been brainwashed by the anti-man lectures of her millet-eating, dungaree wearing mother, coupled with her Dad’s disappearing act.
Secondary characters include Coco, the hotel’s singer, who is giving Kit come-hither looks; and Gaspard, the racist local Chief of Police, newly over from France and bringing a whole crop of outdated ideas on white (or at least French) superiority. Soon the plot thickens to include a national civil war, a natural disaster which all serves to test the explosive bond between Kit and Shelly, and the deepening mystery of what’s going on with Kit.
There were so many side-splitting incidents in the novel it is hard to know how to explain. Quirky puns and witticisms abound. Shelly’s sexual desperation saturates the book, and everything she looks at, including the cocktail menu and the island’s hordes of honeymooning couples, reminds her of the action she isn’t getting. The role reversal between Shelly and Kit (lecherous pursuer and reluctant prey, respectively) provides much of the comic fodder for the novel. When Shelly finally learns his big secret, it further places Kit in the position usually occupied by women in a romance novel. What marred the book for me slightly was the cheesy way in which Shelly responds to Kit’s secret. Also, some of the puns were a bit dodgy and over-the-top, as were some of the rather clichéd characters.
However, I haven’t read such a multi-faceted, distinctive book in a long while. It’s success lies in the fact that the big “sex war” theme splashed all over the cover of the book is so intelligently woven into the plot and characters’ lives without shoving an agenda down the readers’ throats. The author takes a big risk in reversing the roles of the hero and heroine and yet pulls it off. If you like riotous humor, clever satire and sarcastic one-liners, Dead Sexy is a definite must-read!