The Reluctant Nude
Let’s suspend reality and say I see this on the shelf: Naked man + woman in the middle of an orgasm = Probably moving on. Let us then suppose I’d heard the book was really good and that it’s set in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, which happens to be one of my favorite places on earth. But $14.00 = no way. But see, with the Internet (i.e. buzz) and eBooks (i.e. $4.50), I can listen to the buzz, gamble on the book, and in this case win big. And then of course, sally forth and tell you guys to get it.
Fallon Frost is being blackmailed. She’s being leered at by some rich old geezer who asked her out several times and was refused, politely but unmistakably. Finally, he buys the house where she was raised and threatens to bulldoze it unless she poses for a pornographic sculpture. Infuriated, Fallon leaves New York for Pettiplaise, a fictional town on Cape Breton, and knocks on Max Emery’s door.
Max doesn’t sculpt conventionally beautiful models – he prefers the scarred, deformed, or broken, and turns their forms into beauty. So when Fallon turns up in Pettiplaise toting a lewd photo, a weird request, and a don’t-get-near-me attitude, Max’s immediate reaction is “no frickin’ way.” His models are nude, but he sculpts them beautifully and tastefully. They sell for thousands of dollars. He doesn’t need to deal with a crabby woman and a perverted magnate. Yet he finds himself proposing a two-week trial period before she commits to the three months of living as his model. Hounded by the memories of her beloved foster mother’s home, Fallon agrees.
I’m going to get this out of the way first: The premise is dumb. Ludicrous. Unbelievable. Call it what you will, but there is no way I buy it. Fallon is attached to her home – fine. Fallon doesn’t want to sleep with some rich fellow – I’m all for it. But this is the best way he can get ersatz pornography of her? Seriously? Dude, you’re stupid.
Luckily, there’s enough good stuff to block out the premise, and it is good. Despite being way too attached to a house she doesn’t even live in, Fallon is intelligent and self-sufficient, and the way she comes out of her shell is nice to see.
But honestly, the real star of the book is Max. It has been a while since I’ve read a character so flamboyantly weird, so inescapably offbeat, and yet so undeniably attractive – and to be the hero to boot. He wears fedoras and ratty scarves. He’s in touch with his emotions. He speaks English with a British accent overlain with his native French. And he chooses to live in Cape Breton, with local flavor, great seafood, and cultural quirks. (And a big fat maple leaf flying from his house.) Honestly, the cool factor (and the melt factor) are pretty darn high.
I liked seeing Max and Fallon gradually open up and learn to be together, and their relationship is honest and devoid of melodrama, except for an over-the-top moment towards the end. (He shrieks? Truly? Okay.) Save for an utterly ridiculous premise, Ms. Maguire tells a good story with great characters. More, please.