Most of us outgrew discussions of what makes for “The Perfect Man” in college. That’s usually the same period in our lives when we would all sit around in groups discussing the meaning of life (or some such) in great detail until the wee hours of the morning. But these just aren’t the sorts of discussions one really takes seriously after a certain age, certainly not seriously enough to write it all down, for goodness sake. Even if one were to write down the details of such a silly discussion, and the transcript somehow made it onto the pages of your office newsletter, do you really think that such a list would excite the local media? I don’t. I had a really had a hard time accepting this crucial plot device in Mr. Perfect.
In a nutshell, Jaine Bright (who has a sort of Runaway Bride romantic history) and three of her best friends get together one night, have a few drinks, and come up with a list of qualities that the “Perfect Man” should have. As I alluded to, this list somehow gets published and dissected by not only the local, but the national media as well. The contents of the list sends some nutcase over the edge, and the four women end up being stalked by a violent killer. Luckily, Jaine has recently started to realize her neighbor, Sam Donovan, is a pretty perfect guy himself, and he just happens to be a cop. With his help, the killer is eventually identified and caught, but not before it’s almost too late.
The romance between the hero and heroine is a great deal of fun at first, when she realizes that the neighbor she had taken for a drunk or a drug dealer is actually a cop. The two of them clash almost from the moment they meet, and the chemistry is standard Linda Howard sizzling – with increasingly hot interactions, and some amusingly risqué dialogue. However, I never really felt like I got to know the heroine all that well. We know that she likes cars and has a tendency to curse too much and shoot off her mouth, but that’s about it-she doesn’t seem all that lovable and so I couldn’t see the emotional connection between these two. Often the sexual chemistry in Ms. Howard’s books is enough to convince me (as in Dream Man) but this time I was too detached, I think.
My detachment may have stemmed from the fact that the “Mr. Perfect” discussion and ensuing media frenzy occupy most of the first half of the novel, and as such, I wasn’t really drawn into the book until I was almost halfway through it. However, once the plot gets going, and a murderer starts tracking these women down, there is a distinct shift in tone. Some readers may prefer the lighthearted and bawdy tone of the first half, but I preferred the darker and more suspenseful second half. Even though the identity of the murderer is pretty clear, Ms. Howard still makes you cling to the edge of your seat, agonizing over whether these women can avoid getting themselves killed off.
Linda Howard is one of those writers who you know you can depend on to mix both romance and suspense in a satisfying way, with both aspects getting more-or-less equal screen time. Despite the novel’s flaws, it was a quick read and overall an enjoyable one. It was funny in places, and sexy, and gripping. It just wasn’t a keeper.