Friday, September 7, 2007

Night Whispers, by Leslie Kelly [1]

*/***** (1/5)

Leslie Kelly's contemporary romance NIGHT WHISPERS features the proverbial heroine-saving-the-hero's-soul act; here, this act takes the form of restoring the adolescent rogue in our perceived "overwrought, cagey" hero. By the end, the hero Mitch Whymore conforms to his heroine's wild ways and makes all the concessions. The concluding 5-6 pages in this short 212-page paperback extorts mooning introspection and paragraphs of pining words from Mitch for the heroine's delight. The chick-lit factor is high, and the hero's pining seemed like forcibly shoving food down his throat and making him choke on it. The book mostly highlights a guy's strong, muscular physique for the female readership's imaginative pleasure; Kelly throws in a doctorate, professorship and writer for good measure. The prose isn't bad and the book did start out in a fun, sexy manner but the rest of the novel failed to maintain the opening's draw. The plotting and pacing dragged after the opening in spite of the meager 212 pages. The romantic tension inherent in the first half fizzles out as if it was stupid to consider in the first place, while the danger to the heroine in the second half, all of a sudden dissipated. The characters are entirely forgettable. Although NIGHT WHISPERS discusses sensuality and sexuality at length, it phlegmatically disappoints in that department as well.

The Story, possible SPOILERS.

DJ Kelsey's (AKA "Lady Love") new 10-to-2 AM hit radio show pushes the boundaries of propriety in Baltimore, MD, and discusses a new topic every night: desire, sensuality, sexuality, attraction, etc. The songs, callers' comments, and topics range from the erotic to the humorous as Kelsey tactfully and admirably balances the program.

Ever since she was 12, Kelsey has had a crush on Mitch Wymore who grows up in the same house. A younger Kelsey constantly played pranks on Mitch to get his attention while Mitch assiduously ignores her growing up.

Having worldly, traveling parents, a rebellious Mitch grows up with Kelsey and Kelsey's family (Kelsey's mother and Mitch's mother were close friends from college). Kelsey's parents reform Mitch's riotous ways, nurturing him in the process, and our tall, dark, handsome and muscled Mitch (worthy of a GQ cover) eventually finishes a doctorate to teach as a professor and author successful college text books. Mitch feels beholden to Kelsey's parents for taking him in during a sensitive time in his life when he could have ended up in jail. When Kelsey's mother asks if Kelsey can stay with Mitch in Baltimore, Mitch cannot refuse despite his misgivings of bearing the brunt of Kelsey's pranks from the past. Kelsey has a new radio station gig in Baltimore.

The beginning shows promise when Mitch returns from a 6-month trip in China to find a bikini-clad Kelsey in the garden of his row house in Baltimore. Mitch hasn't seen Kelsey in over a decade and he's shocked to see how much Kelsey has curvaceously filled out. Kelsey exploits his desirous reaction, fully enjoying having Mitch ogling her and taking notice of her for a change. He's further shocked to discover the popular Lady Love on a Baltimore radio station turns out to be none other than Kelsey.

Mitch feels following through on wanting Kelsey sexually would betray her parents' trust in him considering they took him in when he needed it most. As a result, he desperately distances himself from Kelsey. This romantic tension vacuously fizzles out as if it never existed halfway through the novel. The second half of the novel has our h/h at odds with each other over Kelsey's radio show. Mitch believes the show attracts unsavory stalkers and claims it will only be a matter of time before someone acts on their perverted dreams for Lady Love. Kelsey discriminately omits telling Mitch of letters and gifts from a stalker type and their relationship strains consequently. The second half of the novel builds on this conflict over Kelsey's sultry radio show. Mitch's concerns finally evaporate in the face of an overwhelming, pining introspection for his heroine Kelsey. Mitch makes all the concessions, he thinks and pines to himself over his heroine endlessly, and verbalizes incessant words of tenderness for Kelsey. Predictably, the book ends by having Mitch call in to Kelsey's show declaring his insalubrious love over many paragraphs. Kelsey evinces a more roguish persona from her man Mitch which more or less translates into a nauseatingly feminine "hero." In so doing, Kelsey apparently "saves" Mitch's soul. Exactly like how girls may like to see their heroes, but not plausible men in love.

Mitch's endless introspection and words at the end seemed like a choking, suffocating excursion in girlish pining. In effect, Mitch represents an effeminately, fulsome romantic-hero caricature complete with the trimmings of a chiseled, muscled frame and a rich career.

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