From Boardwalk with Love
I had really high hopes going into this book. I’d heard it was kind of James Bond-meets-contemporary-romance, and, liking both of those things quite a bit, I was excited. I’m also a fan of a good parody – emphasis on good. What I found in From Boardwalk With Love was something that strove for the Bond-romance thing, and ended up being more of a parody – and unfortunately not a good one.
Camryn O’Brien has somehow gotten recruited for a top-secret international crime-fighting agency known as B.L.I.S.S. With apparently no training whatsoever, she’s thrown into her first mission, which is, of course, to save the world. More specifically, she’s supposed to protect the world’s richest man, Owen Sitall (yes, I know, and it only gets worse) from assassination by the League of Violent Economic Revolutionaries – L.O.V.E.R. for short – who are out to get him for reasons that don’t hold even the slightest bit of logic. Since Owen is obsessed with the game Monopoly, Camryn must go to his island, Chance, which is set up like a huge game board. She won’t be alone, however. She’ll be accompanied by three retired B.L.I.S.S. agents, gun-toting, tech- and intel-genius grannies, every one of them. Oh, and F.I.D.O., her Feline Intelligence Defense Operative. (Translation: a robotic cat that can open doors, launch missiles, and, charmingly, transmit important messages from headquarters in its droppings.) What more could she possibly need? Certainly not Jace Sentari, Owen’s hunky, estranged son who’s on the island with an agenda of his own. But that’s just what she gets.
Jace Sentari is on Chance for reasons that are even less explicable than Camryn’s. He’s working with CIA agent Citra Nella (don’t say I didn’t warn you), ostensibly to retrieve all of the monopoly tokens – car, horse, slippers, Scottish terrier, etc, that Owen has “imported” (read: stolen) to give his theme park some authenticity – and return them to their rightful owners. How and why he, a famous video game designer, got involved with a CIA mission is completely unclear. He doesn’t like working with Citra, doesn’t like his father, and doesn’t have any reason for wanting to be there. But there he is. And now he finds himself working with Camryn to save his father’s life, and hopefully get her into bed in the process. Because what he feels for her is lust, not love, as he keeps reassuring himself.
Not that I’m going to argue with him. The relationship in this book consists of mutual lusting, and some extraordinarily flimsy emotional development revolving around her need to not be “protected” by a man (having had six brothers and a father “protect” her from every danger and decision her entire life), and his rather melodramatic and essentially cardboard relationship with his extremely screwed-up father. The “I Love Yous” were about the funniest thing in this book, unfortunately (more on the “humor” later). And since the emphasis is so clearly on sex, I found it utterly bizaare that most descriptions of the sexual act reminded me of nothing so much as conversations that I recall from my adolescent years: “he was looking at her…you know…yeah, that…anyway, he was looking at that, and then he touched her…well, there…” It is of course possible to write a hot scene without resorting to either vulgar or clinical terms, but with the notable exception of the much-repeated “erection,” the language in the many, extensively-detailed “love” scenes involved no specific terms at all, and was noticeably awkward because of it. It’s bad enough when a “romance” relationship is solely about sex, but far worse when that sex is described in laughable abstracts because the author either can’t or won’t be more specific.
After sex, which is pretty much the focus of the relationship, there’s plot, which, as I already mentioned, bears little or no resemblance to logic. I get the feeling the author was shooting for the witty absurdity of a Bond movie, and those delightfully altered rules and logic that frame that pseudo-reality, and ended up with a pointlessly and most un-wittily absurd unreality, with no rules and no logic whatsoever. There’s very little cohesiveness to the plot as a result, and the intended suspense aspect is nonexistent. Who can feel suspense when the hero and heroine take time out for sex in the middle of scoping out the scene of an imminent attack?
You can’t really discuss a book such as this without discussing humor, which, it goes without saying, is always subjective. But such labored “humor” as exists in this novel is likely to find few takers, I think. Even bits that could be somewhat funny – such as Camryn’s agent number, 36DD, or any of the characters names – are not left as is. No, the author can’t take the chance that someone might miss one of these, so she pounds in the reference using a baseball bat and short words, over and over again, so that we can be sure everyone “gets it.” Problem is, by the time the author is done with this process, the joke in question has long since lost any amusement factor it may once have possessed.
This same process is also true of all character development, including when Camryn carefully spells out her diagnosis of her own psychoses during one of her first encounters with Jace. Not that she hasn’t already made the whole thing abundantly clear to the reader, she just wants to make sure we’re all on the same page. Again. Unfortunately, you’ll already know exactly what page you’re on, since you’ll be counting the words till you can put the book down. Or maybe that’s just me. You, lucky reader, can put the tiresome thing down at any time. Lucky, lucky you. Here’s my advice: don’t let it get that far. Put it down before you even start. You’ll thank me for it.