Gone with the Nerd
I’m not sure what to make of this title. Isn’t the point of this book that the heroine gets the nerd? Where does he go? Or is he no longer a nerd in any way once he gets busy shagging a Hollywood sex symbol? Sure it’s an obvious homage to Gone with the Wind, but it doesn’t quite match the story. As much as I like the idea of “nerdy” heroes (which in romance novels generally means good-looking and hunky, but wearing glasses), the title was only a precursor to the book: a little too cute and a little too illogical.
Although Zoe Tarleton is a box office megastar, she feels her career is missing something: critical acclaim and awards. She’s feeling her age (early thirties) and suspects surgery is in her future if she wants to keep relying on bombshell roles to get parts. She’s determined to get the starring role in a film that will play against type: for her, that of a plain, intellectual scientist who’s discovered a wonder drug. But how does one act intellectual? Zoe turns to her trusted attorney, Flynn Granger, and begs him to teach her how to be a nerd.
Flynn is not precisely flattered to be approached as an expert nerd, but Zoe is his biggest client, and he’s not exactly immune to her world-famous charm. But he’s almost engaged to his girlfriend, a law professor at Harvard. Going off to the secluded cabin in the woods where Zoe proposes to have her nerd lessons might not look so good to Kristen. But he wants to help, so long as Zoe agrees he can tell Kristen where he’s going (despite her desire for this to be top secret) he’ll go. Zoe gives in because she really wants Flynn to say yes. He’s her favorite nerd, she trusts him a great deal, and she doesn’t really know anyone else to ask. So they head up to Northern California – separately, to avoid the paparazzi, and giving fake names – for a weekend of script reading and nerdification.
Zoe found the cabin thanks to an old friend from high school. Much to her surprise and Flynn’s delight, it turns out to be near a town that proclaims itself the Bigfoot Sighting Capital of the World. Flynn thinks Bigfoot is cool; Zoe thinks Bigfoot is fake. But in between script readings that are getting steamier and steamier, encounters with local star-struck teenagers who swear Zoe looks so much like Zoe Tarleton, and near encounters with a suspiciously Bigfoot-like creature, it becomes clear that someone is not happy they’re there – and a series of accidents unfold.
Zoe comes across as a pretty down-to-earth person for a Hollywood mega-star. Her romance with a fellow heartthrob isn’t nearly as hot as the tabloids make it out to be, and she’s actually a bit lonely. Like Flynn, she came from nowhere to make it big, and although she admits she likes looking like a sex goddess, she wants more. Why she thought this new film would be a critical smash I didn’t know, as the plot and dialogue she and Flynn read sounded very ordinary, but she’s got her eyes on something outside her realm and is willing to work hard to get it. Flynn is a nice guy, with none of the hard edge I usually associated with hard-driving attorneys, particularly those negotiating in the cut-throat entertainment industry. His fascination with Bigfoot, and secret hope that it’s real, are endearing in an odd way, giving him an almost kid-like fun side.
But the book covers little more than three days. Zoe has never really thought of Flynn in “that way” at the beginning, yet within hours it’s all she can think about. And although Flynn feels guilty about the fact that he’s involved with someone who reasonably expects a marriage proposal from him, he gets over it once he realizes he has a chance to go to bed with Zoe. Of course he’s aware of her sex appeal, but they’ve never been alone together outside his office, and well, sex in a commemorative Bigfoot furry sleeping bag is just too tempting to pass up. The suspense over the mysterious accidents was non-existent; the villain was obvious from early in the story.
And lastly, there is the whole nerd thing. Don’t get me wrong – I love smart men, and Flynn was a nice hero – but it’s mentioned every couple of pages that Flynn is a nerd, just so you don’t forget. Not a smart guy, but a nerd. Zoe calls him a nerd at least once a chapter. She takes notes on his nerdish behavior, like hanging up his clothes (instead of leaving them all over, like she does) and using recipes to cook (instead of just throwing things in the pot and crossing his fingers, like she does). Flynn seems to take it in stride very well, but it got annoying after a while, and made Zoe seem a bit scatter-brained since most of the behaviors she notes are hardly extreme. It draws on stereotypes of the neat and fastidious person having no sex appeal, while the beautiful person must be a brainless slob. In this respect the characters are entirely cliche and not very interesting.
Fans of the previous Nerd books will probably enjoy this latest entry. I liked the first one, Nerd in Shinng Armor, much more than this one because there wasn’t such a gulf in lifestyle and intelligence between the hero and heroine. Gone With The Nerd does have some charm, but unless you’re really into the word “nerd,” it doesn’t really stand out.