Leading Lady/Estrella
Grade : C

The pairing of the rock star and the sexy actress is well-known to most of us; in Consuelo Vasquez's Leading Lady we catch a glimpse of a similar couple, but one who is struggling to make it to the big time.

Mercedes Romero wants her big break. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon, especially for someone who doesn't fit the thin/blond ideal, and the only opportunity around is Straight Up Tequila, the band that is looking for a "girl back-up singer" - and she nearly loses that gig as well, when she makes up a phony resume designed to impress the band members into hiring her on the spot.

Despite the rocky beginning, Quinn Scarborough, the handsome, pony-tailed leader of the band, sees the talent underneath the deception and hires Mercedes against his better judgment - which warns him that his strong, instant attraction for this girl could be serious trouble. Mercedes sings the love duets with Quinn straight from her heart, although her father has often told her that American men are notoriously slow to commit, let alone marry. Mercedes has always responded that she has her (future) career as a Hollywood leading lady to think of and has no time for marriage, but deep down, as she gets to know Quinn, she wonders at the wisdom of her philosophy.

Although they both try to keep the big picture in mind, Quinn and Mercedes eventually give in to their attraction, which, just as they both predicted, only complicates matters. As the struggling band (including the now unemployed Mercedes) is offered a dream gig, Quinn and Mercedes must come to a decision about their feelings - they've acknowledged their love for each other, but is that enough to build a lifetime on?

Mercedes is a likable, but very young 23-year old woman. She expects her boss to accommodate her absences whenever an audition pops up, and surprisingly for her, he does not. In the end, when her choice is to be with Quinn or take a role in a motion picture, she completely backs off from her dream. Given how well she knows Quinn by now, a little compromise wasn't out of the question, and the way she communicates her decision to Quinn is disappointing.

What Quinn offers Mercedes is what has been missing from his own life - a loving family. His relationship with his father is strained, and when Nathaniel Scarborough asks his son to play at a company party, Quinn can only see an opportunity to spite his father and so refuses. Although he initially sees his attraction for Mercedes as potentially disastrous for the band, once his mind is made up that he loves her, Quinn's heartbreak is palpable.

Although I liked both hero and heroine, there were a few times where it seems that much of their growing relationship is based on "incidents" rather than feelings. Once, Quinn and Mercedes spend the night at his place after Mercedes shoots a commercial. In another instance, Quinn and Mercedes spend the night at her place after the band's gig. Then there's the time Quinn has an allergic reaction and Mercedes must help him apply calamine lotion. In yet another instance, Mercedes catches an accidental glimpse of a naked Quinn and in response, parades around naked so he won't be uncomfortable. While all these incidents move the narrative, they don't do so on the basis of the characters' emotions.

The shorter format of the Encanto line didn't allow for further insight into Quinn's relationship with his father, which I would liked to have seen; all of a sudden, it seems, Nathaniel is trying to mend ways with his son. The secondary characters are not as well drawn, either. If you've never tried Consuelo Vasquez, I recommend you look for the delightful Sea Siren/La Sirena, which is the book that turned me on to this author's work.

Reviewed by Claudia Terrones
Grade : C

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : July 2, 2000

Publication Date: 2000

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