Take Me For A Ride
Natalie Rosen is an art restorer. Her boss, whom she has begun to suspect of some shady activities, brings in a piece of jewelery to be cleaned that Natalie recognizes as a possible family heirloom. Natalie “borrows” it so that her grandmother Nonnie can tell her whether her suspicions are correct and the item is their long last family heirloom, taken from them by Nazis who also killed Nonnie’s father. Nonnie confirms Natalie’s belief and decides not only to keep the chain, but to head off to Russia with it.
When Take Me For A Ride opens, Natalie is sitting at a bar, glum and dejected, wondering whether she’s going to lose her job. Eric McDougal recovers stolen jewelery and he’s been hired to retrieve the heirloom. Apparently, Eric’s skill is in seducing women out of their stolen pieces. I guess if a man was the thief they’d give the project over to someone else. Natalie is Eric’s latest mark which is why he’s in the same bar, flirting with her. She’s drunk, depressed and alone, which makes her an easy target. Even easier, she spills her guts about stealing the chain and her disappearing act of a grandmother. This turns Eric’s target from Natalie to Nonnie, but we still learn – and I believe are supposed to be impressed by this – that Eric doesn’t feel good about sleeping with Natalie like he usually would any other target. There’s just “something” about this girl.
Would I knew what that was, because Natalie is pathetic. She steals/borrows/retrieves a chain from her employer to give to her Granny who hares off to Russia with it. In the meantime, her boss is killed in the most brutal of fashions and Natalie has a tête-a-tête with his Russian mafia girlfriend along the lines of “you’re going to wish you were never born, Natalie”. She decides going to the police is out of the question since she stole the necklace. Of course, my first thought would be to protect my grandmother by giving her the best protection and support I could. But I’m not Natalie, who thinks it best to tell no one – not her parents, her colleagues or her friends (they’re never mentioned, which made me think she didn’t have any) – and to solve this problem involving the Russian Mafia by herself. The only other person she takes into confidence is the dude she met at the bar the night before named Eric, who has so far been really helpful and is such a nice guy.
I cannot enjoy books which feature stupid characters, and I think Natalie is among the most lack-witted I’ve ever read. I did not like that she had no friends, and I didn’t like that when she was thrust into such a scary situation, she decided to trust no one but a complete stranger. And I especially didn’t like that she readily believed Eric worked for a secret service agency and was grateful for his assistance. In fact, I’m not sure I liked anything about her. So it was impossible for me to grade this book higher, despite the fact that the writing was smooth; on several occasions, the word-play had a notably high quality, and I also enjoyed the internal musings of the characters and the vignette-styled scenes featuring Nonnie, and others, the Nazis.
The best thing about my reading experience of Take Me For A Ride was that Eric is a redhead. I’ve never read about a contemporary ginger hero before, especially one who is supposed to be hot, sexy, and Paul Newman-esque. It was a nice change from the usual Black Irish look of romance heroes. But there are too many references to the fact that Eric is Scots-Irish, and I got tired of being reminded that he was ginger, a heavy drinker, a straight talker and a manly-man (all of which seemed inextricably tied to the fact that he is Scots-Irish).
It doesn’t help that Natalie’s attitudes often seem dated, which sometimes made me wonder whether I was really reading a contemporary. Though Natalie spoke in the language of “time warp”, Eric brought much-needed realism to the proceedings. Close to the end of the novel he thinks, “What to do? He liked her. He cared for her.” This was a believable pronouncement free of declarations of love, and for a moment I thought I’d be getting a “Happy For Now” romance ending (which I’m not averse to). But badda bing, badda boom, a few pages towards The End, he realizes he loves her. Whatever.
As if this about-turn to Time Warp on Eric’s part and Natalie’s entire character weren’t enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book, the reader is treated to several scenes which focus on a couple I assume are the main characters from a previous romance. I didn’t care for them and the man had the most outrageously plummy English accent. In addition, Eric’s heroics against several members of the Russian Mafia are laughable. I hadn’t realized he was a superhero as well as a ginger-haired Scots-Irish.
Over all, this was not a good reading experience for me, and I can’t recommend it.