I wrapped up Fool's Gold by Jennifer Skully this weekend and had the exact same reaction to it as I did to In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond. It was a fun, light read - but dang if it didn't have problems. This time it was the conflict.
Simone Chandler went bust when the dotcom bubble burst, so she decides to relocate to dusty Goldstone, Nevada to lick her wounds. She lives in a trailer (it has a foundation thankyouverymuch) and writes Internet erotica for a living. People pay Simone to spin fantasies for them.
Tyler "Brax" Braxton is a sheriff of a small northern California town and desperately needs a vacation. He travels to Goldstone at his sister's request because her marriage is on the rocks. Maggie suspects her husband, Carl, is having an affair.
Brax soon meets Simone and is very intrigued. Not to mention very, very horny. But Simone has apparantly been corresponding with Carl via e-mail. Could it be Simone that Carl is diddling behind his wife's back?
What doesn't work? Well pretty much all the conflict. Why Simone just doesn't come out and tell Brax why she's writing Carl e-mail is anyone's guess. Her reasoning is incredibly weak, especially when coupled with the fact that she's a very good friend of Maggie's.
Also, Simone has a domineering mother that she's incapable of standing up to - until - yeah you guessed it - she hooks up with Brax and he's given her incredible orgasms. I'm sorry, but the feminist in me really cringed over this. Couple this with the fact that Maggie has a sexual hang-up and my eyes began rolling in the back of my head. What's Maggie's problem? She's a screamer in bed and her former fiance was apparantly embarrassed by it.
OK, first off - what man is turned off by an exuberant woman in bed? Maybe I'm hanging out with a bunch of deviants (which is possible) but most men I've known in my life are all about women having a grand old time. The more vocal the better. Heck, it makes them feel like they're doing it right!
And poor Simone - having so many vocal and powerful orgasms. Poor baby! Most women I know would give a limb (or a kidney) to have that problem.
Maybe I'm an old fuddy duddy (extremely possible), but these sorts of sexual hang-ups that authors give heroines tend to piss me off more than anything else. I figure by the time a woman hits 30 she should at least have some sort of clue.
Sorry about that. Sometimes my ranting gets away from me.
However the mystery works well - as long as the reader ignores everything HQN puts on the cover. Note to whomever writes back cover copy - when the murder doesn't happen until halfway through the book, it is poor form to disclose who the victim is on the back cover copy! This story would have worked a lot better with that element of surprise.
And spoiler to follow: the title itself blows the whole mystery angle, although luckily the author doesn't tip her hand to early.
So what works? I liked the characters - all of them. Despite the conflict they have to work with, they all seem like nice people. I also enjoyed the mystery angle once the author got around to serving it up on a platter - which takes the first half of the book.
So I'm recommending this one with qualifications. It's a solid vacation book should you be stuck at an airport this holiday season - but don't expect anything too deep.