Wanted: One Perfect Man
Judi McCoy’s Wanted: One Perfect Man has a very original and rather fun paranormal setup. It falters in execution, though, and is likely to be enjoyed most by those who don’t closely examine the plot.
Robert Lotello is in hiding. Six years ago he abandoned his career as an astronomer, kidnapped his toddler son, Will, away from the boy’s legal guardians (Will’s maternal grandparents), and moved to the tiny town of Button Creek. He now lives under an assumed name – Daniel Murphy – and runs the local gas station and convenience store. Will, now eight, is fascinated by the stars; one night, he and his dad notice some mysterious lights shining in the sky.
A few days after the lights, a pretty new waitress starts working at Button Creek’s diner (which, as in every small-town romance I’ve ever read, is a center of gossip and is run by a saucy-yet-wise middle-aged woman who dishes up good food and advice with equal relish). The new waitress’s name is Zara and she captivates every man who sees her, including Daniel. But she’s oddly naïve: she doesn’t have a driver’s license and she doesn’t know how to run a washing machine. Daniel is attracted, but wary. He’s worried about those men who arrived in a featureless black van at about the same time: they claim to be from the Department of Transportation, but they seem to be looking for something.
Zara, we soon learn, is an alien from a planet on which the males have largely lost the ability to reproduce. Fresh breeding stock is required, which is why Zara and eight other women were dropped on Earth and instructed to get themselves pregnant. Zara has specific orders to allow herself to be impregnated only by Robert Lotello. Unfortunately, she can’t find him – and she’s becoming distressingly attracted to Daniel Murphy.
I’m always ready to accept paranormal plots in romance, and I was willing to go along with this one. But such plots need have to have some sort of internal logic to them, and the alien storyline in this book just doesn’t make a lot of sense. The people of Zara’s planet need help reproducing, so they send nine women down to be impregnated by Earth men. Only nine? Is that really going to help? We learn that the aliens picked Daniel as a stud because, when he was in college, he donated sperm to a sperm bank; they examined this sample and decided that he would be a good candidate. So why didn’t they just take the sperm from the sperm bank, rather than going through the (surely expensive) rigmarole of having Zara try to seduce him? For that matter, Zara knows numerous Earth languages and has had knowledge of Earth flora and fauna implanted in her brain; but she wasn’t supplied with a last name, money, or ID. These aliens are lousy trip planners.
Another problem is that the author hasn’t quite caught the knack (mastered by such authors as Linda Howard) of making a hero intense but also sympathetic. Daniel is a man constantly on the alert, knowing that he could be imprisoned and his son taken away at any time. So he’s intense, all right. He’s grim, snarly, brusque with his son, impatient with Zara, and generally not very friendly. I had a hard time wondering why everyone in Button Creek loved him so much, and that included the heroine.
Finally, I have one accuracy complaint that may seem minor, but that really bothered me. Zara’s sole purpose of being on Earth is to get pregnant, at which point she plans to leave. After having sex with Daniel a couple times, she begins to exhibit certain physical symptoms: she faints, she is alternately very hungry and slightly nauseated, and she wants to nap all the time. The saucy-but-wise café owner tells her, “I know the signs, and you have all of them… You are pregnant.” The trouble is, all this happens within forty-eight hours of Zara’s having sex with Daniel. I thought, Golly, that was really fast – it must be because Zara is an alien. But later we learn that “the bodily mechanics of pregnancy on her planet were almost identical to those on Earth.” All I can say is, Zara’s bodily mechanics aren’t identical to those of any Earth women I know.
In spite of all this, Wanted: One Perfect Man has its entertaining moments. Zara is likable, and I was amused by her run-ins with Roswell fans and X-Philes. The plot doesn’t make a lot of sense and the hero’s not very friendly, but I still had a rather good time with this book. Not quite enough to recommend it – but enough to think that maybe the next book in the series might be better.