Hot Legs is a book based on a fairly interesting premise – a mystery surrounding a missing painting – that is failed by one-dimensional characters, repetitive (to the point of being boring) hot sex, and, well, bad writing. There isn’t a euphemistic way to put it. The writing in this book is laughably bad, even when compared to Johnson’s previous work, none of which struck me as award-winning stuff (Yes, I’ll admit to liking some of those Johnson historicals, but it really wasn’t for the writing).
Hot Legs reminds me of an old Jackie Collins novel combined with a furniture assembly instruction leaflet from IKEA: “Insert Tab A into Slot A. Moan. Repeat. Talk briefly about something unrelated and unimportant. Repeat.” That’s about as much emotion and feeling the cardboard characters in Hot Legs put into their relationship and their love scenes. The tone of Hot Legs is sort of jaded chick lit – the heroine reminds me of an older, divorce-scarred, more cynical Bridget Jones, but unfortunately, for all her travails, she’s no more evolved or sure of herself than the original model.
An art curator for the Minneapolis Museum of Art, Cassie Hill has been recently freed from her lyin’, cheatin’ spouse, and is simmering with righteous anger against all men, even as she dithers like a high school girl about what to wear to a business meeting with a man she doesn’t even know. Ugh. I think I was supposed to see Cassie’s identity confusion and loss of self as arising from the breakdown of her marriage, but the reality of her character was unappealing and uninvolving. She bored and annoyed me by turns with her fits and starts. I couldn’t even seem to muster any sympathy for her admittedly rotten financial situation.
The plot is simple: A priceless painting has been stolen from the museum and Cassie’s hateful, philandering, affluent, and over-privileged boss hires legendary art bounty hunter (kind of like Indiana Jones) Bobby Serre to track down the painting. He assigns Cassie as Bobby’s assistant, promising a different outcome to each of them for her service: He tells Cassie she’s proving her worth and earning the raise she’s asked for, and he tells Bobby that he’s giving him a spirited bedmate to enjoy while he’s in town. Charming, no? Turns out that amoral boss is just the beginning of the Collins-esque characters – Bobby’s conniving society maven ex-wife goes one better in the nasty department, oozing a trail of slime and malicious mischief wherever she goes.
Despite their initial reluctance to work together, Bobby and Cassie hit it off physically and have a grand old time romping through one marathon sex session after another. However, the clinical and almost perfunctory language Johnson used to describe these many scenes made them dull in the extreme. The love scenes suffer from a classic case of an author telling the reader about the action and not showing it unfold. Supposedly Bobby’s stupendous member brought Cassie to thirteen climaxes one night, which made me laugh since she’s walking around on high heels the next day with no trouble at all. I’m not a stickler for accuracy in my fiction, but that’s just pushing the boundaries of reality as I know it.
I’m also personally uninterested in reading romantic scenes where the hero is distracted by thoughts about his horrid ex-wife while engaged in intimate relations with the heroine. I’m not offended easily but that really turned me way off. Cassie didn’t seem to mind, but I did. A book (and a relationship) has truly gone bad when the supposedly intense and powerful physical chemistry between the hero and heroine can be so easily interrupted by a fleeting thought about an ex-wife long discarded.
It took me a very long time to get through the first 100 pages, but the book actually became a little more interesting as it went along. I say a little more, because there’s nothing overly interesting about this book. A day after reading it, I don’t remember what color Bobby’s hair is. I do know that he has an enormous, uh, member, since the reader is treated to many discussions about and a few exhibitions of his prowess and stamina with said appendage. I know he’s got a reputation as a ladies man, in addition to being an international expert in the field of art recovery. Oh, and he was on vacation in Europe when Arthur tags him. That’s about as much as we learn about Bobby, until the ex-wife enters the fray.
Hot Legs picked up for me when the couple is separated by a distance that even Bobby’s physical measurements couldn’t compensate for and I got to know the heroine a little better. Unfortunately, that’s far too late in the game to start developing a character, especially one as basically pitiful as Cassie. One high point to mention: I liked Cassie’s friend Liv and the role she played in Cassie’s life, even if their interactions were a bit high-schoolish. Liv was far more interesting and well-rounded to me than Cassie.
The actual resolution of the painting mystery is fairly ridiculous and summarily dealt with, as were the two caricaturish ex-es from hell. The boss gets a comeuppance too, in case you care. I finished reading Hot Legs with a sigh of relief. Consider this review a public service: I read this book so you don’t have to.