Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Talk Nerdy To Me, by Vicki Lewis Thompson [2]

**/***** (2/5)

Heroes in contemporary romance all stem from the common mold of Navy SEALs, bodyguards, sports athletes, billionaires and detectives. Known for amusing yet uniquely sensual "nerdy" books, Vicki Lewis Thompson's TALK NERDY TO ME managed to strike a fresh appeal with its 6-foot-5 electrical engineering hero (tall, dark and handsome of course) and fashion model with very creative aspirations building inventions. Common interests in science and technology, yet profoundly contrasting backgrounds and personalities, weld the attraction in TALK NERDY TO ME and shortly thereafter, the love. I found all the characters in TALK NERDY TO ME very endearing and the h/h chemistry crackled with a resounding electricity. The sexual innuendo in the technical jargon was generally funny and sexy too, though a bit cheesy at times. I overlooked some of the technical inconsistencies mainly because Vicki Lewis Thompson definitely has a knack for making brainy talk sound like an aphrodisiac. I really enjoyed the first half of the novel, but I thought much of the later parts in this 357-page paperback failed to maintain the first half's excitement and engagement. The resolution to the primary plot at the end was quick and empty, and I found the Where-Are-They-Now epilogue four years after-the-fact, extremely on the cornball cheesy side. Over-the-top careers were handed out to everyone in the epilogue. Much of the novel takes place over the course of one night, and it felt like a draining, episodic marathon: pizza, fix washer, take Manny and Kyle to see Rick and Eunice next door, eat, drop off Rick, block off damaged back door, make love, head over to mom & Aunt Myrtle's, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, you get the point. The plotting and pacing are subpar, the settings deficient, the prose below average. Still, the likable, refreshing characters and light-hearted tone relays an entirely readable experience, and for half the time, an entertaining fare. The sensuality isn't bad, but Anne Stuart's INTO THE FIRE (***) still takes the prize for the most sizzling contemporary romance I've read to date (admittedly, that list is limited).

The Story.

I should note that TALK NERDY TO ME isn't necessarily the heroine entreating the hero to talk nerdy to her, but mostly the other way around. We have a scatterbrain genius in a model's body talking nerdy to her electrical engineer of a hero. The book belongs to its heroine Eve Dupree: successful fashion model, a high school dropout, and a genius inventor at heart breaking out of her shell of glitzy drudgery. Here, our heroine isn't insecure about her looks, but rather, she's insecure about her brains. An inventor at heart, our fashion model Eve Dupree is sick of the urban, glamorous life. She purchases a house in small-town Middlesex, Connecticut to that end, a relatively small town where everyone knows everyone. She'll continue working on small modeling jobs to support herself with trips to New York City (not too far from Middlesex), at least until her inventing career pans out! Meanwhile, she'll have the space and personal time to focus on her inventing ideas, foremost among them a project to build a hovercraft running on biofuel, or more precisely, running on scraps of broccoli. Too scatterbrained to concern herself with small everyday details such as locking doors or cleaning up or fixing the washing machine, Eve works on her creative ideas passionately.

Driving by on his motorcycle, electrical engineer Charlie Shepherd overhears a small explosion coming from a house. He stops by to make sure everyone is alright and meets Eve, or technically, Eve's hand under the garage. Charlie invites Eve over for a game of pool over at the local Rack and Balls, and they hit it off instantly enjoying common interests and a sensual chemistry. She plays pool like a pro, Sam Adams is her beer of choice and most of all, Charlie is awestruck by her creative passion and her hovercraft invention.

Charlie's cousin, Ladies' Man Rick Bannister, arrives into town with two of his "associates," and Rick and Charlie offer to help Eve finish her invention. Eve could use Charlie's expertise in electrical engineering not to mention his stamp of approval. After Eve shows her hovercraft to Charlie, Rick and Rick's two associates Manny and Kyle, Eve notices the disappearance of her hovercraft notes. Later, Eve notices forced entries into her home. During this time, Rick and Eve's neighbor Eunice grow closer, and so too does Charlie and Eve. When Eve shares her concerns about the missing notes and forced entries to Charlie, both actively work together to formulate a list of suspects and to figure out who wants to steal Eve's invention. An invention which could generate a lot of money.

From the beginning, the culprit isn't a secret and I found it odd our educated Charlie failed to include the one person on his list of suspects that's actually behind stealing the notes and forced entries. I mean there wasn't any theft or forced entries before Eve showed the invention to Charlie, Rick, Manny, Kyle and Eunice so technically all of these people should be on the list of suspects regardless of an absent motive. Still, it was nice to see our lead characters actively try to work things out together and capture the perpetrator unlike other romances which seem to ignore the problem until the problem arises again at the end.

The book also highlights the different directions the h/h are taking as they hopelessly fall in love. Eve wants to settle down in the small town of Middlesex, CT, after a glitzy modeling career while Charlie has grown up and lived in Middlesex all his life and endeavors to land a dream-come-true job at the Hoover Dam in Nevada.

The second half sagged quite a bit, and the conclusion was pretty dry. For a strong start consisting of crackling sensual chemistry, amusing sexual innuendos, and very likable, refreshing characters, it's unfortunate the second half failed to grip. Still, I like the characters, and I will most likely read other books in Vicki Lewis Thompson's line of "nerdy" romance novels.

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