Friday, May 20, 2011

Trolls in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome

Someone at DAW accidentally put "Fantasy" on the spine of this book instead of "Romance."

How can you tell a paranormal romance from an urban fantasy? It's easy. If the (already weak) plot screeches to a complete halt so the main characters can have hawt sex for about 50 pages, it's a romance.

Willow Tate (who goes by Willy, geez) makes a living writing and illustrating graphic novels. One day she comes up with a new idea, a superhero who's a troll. She sketches him, and a real-life troll appears in the street outside her apartment, causing chaos even though no one can actually see him--no one but Willy. It turns out that Willy is a particularly special snowflake, someone who can visualize beings from an alternate world called Unity. She has to help the Department of Unexplained Events--and specifically hot Agent Grant--save a kidnapped boy who may hold the key to something or another. I wasn't really clear on what the boy was supposed to be able to do. It didn't really matter anyway. The plot was just a vehicle to get Willy together with Agent Grant so they can have arguments and sex. As far as I can tell, the only reason the kidnapped boy was in the plot was so that Willy could feel all maternal, because she wants babies.

I really disliked this book. Willy comes across as whiny, neurotic, and needy. She hardly does anything to forward the plot. She claims she's imaginative because she's a writer, but here's what she does when she sees the troll: freaks out and calls her boyfriend to whine that he should drop everything and come reassure her. Then she spends more than half of the book disbelieving that the troll is real, even after seeing him repeatedly. She does not do what any artist would instantly do in this situation, which would be to think "Can I do this twice?" and then start drawing, I don't know, unicorns or something.

Thin as the plot is, the characterization is even thinner. All the characters act alike and dialogue is oddly stilted--Celia Jerome doesn't seem to like using contractions. Willy actually started out as a reasonably interesting person and I had hopes that she'd lose the neediness and grow a spine during the book. But she actually gets worse over the course of the book, until I grew to actively hate her. I didn't like Agent Grant either. He's bland, never makes a mistake, and keeps having to rescue (and then sexxor) Willy.

Willy claims to know karate. I guess that's why she clonks a housebreaker over the head with a vase--only it's not a housebreaker, it's Agent Grant! And she just got out of the jacuzzi and forgot to tie her robe closed, which I totally always forget to do when I'm about to confront a burglar. So Agent Grant has to make mad hot love to her for a couple of chapters.

But you know what I hated the most about this book (and that's saying a lot)? Way early in the book, when Willy is still being neurotic that her then-boyfriend won't hurry over to hold her after the shock she's had of seeing a troll kick over a fire hydrant, a cop comes to take her statement. The cop is the only character in the book I actually liked, a genuinely nice guy called Van that Willy is instantly attracted to. He's a black man and Willy is white, so I was hopeful that the book would actually have an interracial romance. But a chapter or two later, white man Agent Grant shows up and is even hotter than Van (that's another clue that you're reading a romance: each male character is hotter than the one before), and Willy instantly forgets Van exists. He drops out of the plot pretty much entirely. Because Agent Grant is BRITISH and has a TITLE. He's a LORD. Also he and Willy are FATED to be together.

The troll doesn't do much either. Man, this was a bad book.

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