Dear Mrs. Birdsell,
I had been looking forward to the next book in your Georgian spy series but when I saw this one in Waldenbooks the other day, I gave in to another “what the hell” impulse. The back blurb sounded different but honestly I had no idea what to expect in a comtemporary from you, especially in Harlequin’s Next Line. What I found was a funny, breezy farce in the style of the mid 80s movie, Desperately Seeking Susan. Only better.
The Next Line appears to feature heroines at some kind of crossroads in their lives and Grace Becker fits the description. Her husband of 15 years just left her for his older and less attractive assistant (Grace caught them making a human peanut butter and jelly sandwich in bed) and now she’s wondering what’s in store for her. At 37, men aren’t whistling at her anymore, her children are growing up and she feels like she’s fading into oblivion. A chance encounter with a highschool friend gets her out to an 80s nightclub where a grownup game of truth or dare starts her on a wild weekend she could never have imagined. Before it was all over “she’d given away her panties and a twenty-thousand dollar ring, made out with two complete strangers, agreed to cook for an insane Russian mobster, gotten a tattoo, and learned how to dance like a stripper.” Not your average weekend for a suburban Philadelphia housewife.
I can easily see this book being made into a chick flick. It’s not heavy or full of deep thoughts about marriage, commitment, or betrayal. Grace ends up maybe finding a new romance and has a plan for what she wants to do with her life. Readers who are too young to have lived through the 80s might not get all the references Grace and the other characters throw out but for me it was a trip down memory lane. I like how the books ends with the new romance really just beginning. Grace and Pete, the Secret Service agent who mistakes her for his snitch’s girlfriend and mistakenly hauls her into the action, definitely have some sparks of attraction throughout most of the book but I like how you don’t have them succumbing to lust at inappropriate times in the story. I also like how Grace might have some bitter thoughts about her ex husband but she’s basically not a bitter person. And while she does end up helping Pete gather the evidence he needs to make his case, she doesn’t come off as either Girl Wonder or a hopeless klutz for laughs.
What started as a gamble ended up paying off with a B grade. Oh, but I had to mentally change your description of Pete looking like Ron Howard. I love the movies Ron has directed but sexually, he just doesn’t fire my rockets.