I Got You, Babe
Early on in this novel, I got the impression that it shared a similarity with certain popular Susan Elizabeth Phillips stories: if you can get past an early unpleasant-to-read scene, there’s an excellent book in store for you. While it wasn’t exactly on the same level as those stories, Jane Graves’ latest offering, I Got You, Babe, features a fun plot that starts slow and gets much better by the end, amusing and interesting secondary characters, and strong writing. Even if the primary characters were not quite as emotionally fleshed out as I would have liked, somehow the love story survived, and was quite enjoyable. True, it could have been better, but it was still quite promising.
Renee Esterhaus is on the run, which turns out to be a theme for her in the book. Framed for a robbery she didn’t commit, she has a bounty hunter hot on her trail when she enters a small town diner and sees a handsome man at the counter. She approaches him and promptly propositions him, a strategy which actually works, and they are soon on the way to his cabin. When they arrive, however, her seemingly passionate come-on has cooled, and she feeds the suspicious hero a line about how she’s been abused by her boyfriend, and was using him to escape, a line which he somehow buys. But his agreement to let her stay the night has a price: in the morning, she has to report her fictional boyfriend to the local cops. She agrees, having no other choice. But while he sleeps, she grabs his keys and sneaks away.
John DeMarco is a cop on an unofficial “vacation” – one he was ordered to take after he pummeled an innocent paper towel dispenser upon seeing a guilty-as-sin scumbag he’d arrested acquitted and set free. In the middle of Nowhere, Texas, a beautiful blonde walks up to him and promises him hot sex. When he wakes after an abstinent night to find that the supposedly-abused woman is a bail-jumper bent on stealing his car, he’s understandably upset. How he gets from there to getting half-naked with her next to the gravel road later that morning is something you’ll have to read for yourself to find out.
Graves’ secondary characters are fun and memorable. If John is the passionate cop, his brothers Alex and Dave (soon to have their own novels, one suspects) are respectively the uptight cop and the laid back cop, with the latter showing up in a T-shirt that reads “Bad cop! No donut!” Meanwhile brassy, bulldoggish Cousin Brenda the SWAT team member and her quiet, bookish husband Eddie the criminal forensic scientist are purely unforgettable. As John remarks, “Brenda could put a hole through a quarter at twenty paces, and Eddie could tell you what weapon she was using.” A family of cops they may be, but even to a fugitive like Renee, they seem like home.
My real problems with characterization focus on Renee. We don’t see what’s going through her mind at all during key-passages, such as when she’s coming on to John in the restaurant. Since such behavior is pretty much out of character, given what we know about her at that point, and given her behavior throughout the rest of the book, it seems truly bizarre to see her act this way – the scene is shown entirely from John’s perspective – and the curiosity it induces is never really answered. Also, she occasionally does things that make her difficult to like, such as playing on John’s sympathies by telling him she’s been abused. It’s clear that she has issues, but these are never really explored.
John is a little better fleshed out, but there were some holes in his characterization as well. There are a few references to his childhood and their influence on his behavior, but they’re pretty inadequate. All in all, I get the feeling if this story were made into a movie, every actor playing a major role would ask the classic question “what’s my motivation?” After reading the book, I still don’t always know.
Still, the story is very enjoyable, and the plot takes some rather unexpected twists in the second half. I would love to get into these, but they constitute some serious spoilers. Suffice to say that you are most definitely not expecting these twists, which makes them all the more fun, goofy, and delicious. While the problems I mentioned above nagged at me during the first half, the second half moved way too fast for me to be concerned by them, and the unexpected areas explored by the plot on the way to the eyebrow-raising finish more than made up for them in any case.
As a whole, this book is fun and fast-moving, particularly after those first few scenes. I look forward to Ms. Graves future romance work, and recommend this to anyone looking for a little fun in their romance.