Some years ago I reviewed Charlotte Hughes’ The Last Southern Belle, one of the last Loveswepts to be published before Bantam ended the line. I found it light and cute, but didn’t give the author much thought thereafter. Somehow I missed the buzz about Charlotte Hughes being the “next Janet Evanovich,” so I had no expectations of finding humor in Hot Shot. Good thing too; I was disappointed enough in this book without having the added expectation of humor piled upon it.
Frankie Daniels is a detective in the Atlanta PD. Unfortunately, bad judgment in men leaves her reassigned to Purdyville, South Carolina, aka Nowheresville. Frankie moves to her new town expecting it to be populated by hicks. She arrives to find her rental home in flames, and vents her temper – including her belief her new co-workers are inferior good ol’ boys – on one of the two men she finds there, one of whom just happens to be the police chief and her new boss, Matt Webber. Frankie manages to have several more of these “funny” moments. She also has some trouble adjusting to Purdyville at first but once feelings develop between her and Matt, things get a little better.
Frankie is no Stephanie Plum. No, she’s annoying, abrasive, and destroyed any chance I may have had to enjoy this book. The worst thing, and I know I’m going to offend someone, but so be it, is Frankie’s chain smoking habit. She puffs away several times a day (though her smoking sort of just disappears at some point near the end of the book). Yuck. Sorry to the smokers out there. Then there’s Frankie’s mouth. For a while, not much that comes out of it is pleasant. She’s insulting and rude all around; Little Miss Congeniality has lots of attitude to go with her charming habits, and none of it made me laugh. Had she referred to “the mean streets of Atlanta” one more time, my wall would have a dent in it. Frankie needed to get over herself far earlier than she did. When she did eventually soften up and turned out to be a good friend to her roommate as well as a member of the community, it was too late for me.
Matt, on the other hand, is a sweetie. He so deserved someone better than Frankie. He was nice, took the crap she dished out, persisted in getting her to go out with him and admit her feelings, and was patient while she worked out her issues. By the end of the book, I almost bought Frankie and Matt’s romance. She softened up enough to admit her love for him, and she dealt with whatever issues she had. Matt was totally in love with her, but just why he is a question I simply cannot answer.
As for the humor, I came across at least two incidents I think were supposed to be funny wherein Matt puts a couple of fast ones over on Frankie (and she deserved them). Both times Frankie jumped to conclusions about the situation, basing her assumptions on her experiences on the “mean streets of Atlanta” and ended up being the butt of a good ‘ol country joke. Not funny. Sigh.
The townspeople were a mix of the usual suspects. The backwoods, trashy family of the town bully (whose butt Frankie kicked her first night in town), the older church ladies, Frankie’s phone-sex operator roommate, who happened to be Matt’s cousin, and the normal people who were Frankie’s friends.
There’s a little suspense as the town’s crime rate goes up and gives Frankie a chance to show off her training from the “mean streets of Atlanta.” The suspense plot doesn’t really add much to the book.
So don’t believe all the buzz you’re hearing about Hughes or this book; Hot Shot isn’t worth the hype, mainly because Frankie’s abrasiveness overshadows what works. Would I read Hughes again in the future? Because I did enjoy her in the past and because I know she’s collaborating with Janet Evanovich, I’ll consider it, but her next book would have to be fabulous to make up for this one.