by Stef Ann Holm

October 2002
ISBN: 1-55166-949-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Mira Books
Mass Market Paperback

Girls Night is Stef Ann Holm’s first effort at contemporary romance fiction, and, according to the back of the book, is also a reflection of her relationship with her two teenage daughters, which is probably why I was so upset to find the book as dull as I did. With a title like Girls Night I expect some giggly, silly, talk about guys, girl-bonding fun, and instead there is a lot of focus on side characters, bills, and fast food.

Blue Heron Beach, WA, population 3,562, home of the Glowing Green Earthworm, sounds like a nice place to visit. It is full of friendly, unique personalities whom you can only wish were like your real neighbors; yet is still small enough that everyone knows most of everyone else’s business and nothing too bad ever really happens. In the center of the tiny community are widow Jillene McDermott, her two young daughters, their dog, and her struggling coffee shop. She has pretty much given up on any kind of relationship and is concentrating on her business when famed crime writer Vince Tremonti returns to town after several years living in LA.

Vince has some problems of his own, namely a serial killer obsessed with him and the book he writes, and so doesn’t want to get involved with Jillene, even if the attraction between them is instantaneous. So the two of them try their best to stay apart, even after Jillene’s daughters decide that they would like Vince to be with their mother. It has all the makings of a charming story, and the sexual tension, at least at the beginning, was hot enough to keep me reading.

But then I lost interest in Vince and Jillene shortly thereafter, especially Jillene. I like historical romances, (ok, I thrive on them) but seeing a modern heroine, in her late thirties no less, rely on a man to teach her the basics of life is more than a little off-putting. Of course, Jillene states from the beginning that she’s not a feminist, and I have to at least admire her honesty, even if I do not like it. The problem is that my dislike of Jillene is the strongest emotion I felt for her and her problems. The same could be said for Vince, though he was slightly more interesting at first. That interest lasted until his method of dealing with his problems was revealed to be drinking beer and watching wrestling. The two of them rarely seemed to connect, other than sexually, and I could not really see the attraction or why they would be together — other than the fact that Jillene was tired of being alone and the other men she had dated previously were so obviously not suitable that it was ridiculous.

There is a small subplot involving Vince’s father and a local widow that was sweet, though not worth reading a book for, and a joke about Ernest Borgnine that was cute. But overall there is little else about this book that I would recommend to anyone. I wish I had enjoyed it more because the writing quality alone ranks it above the majority of romance books I read, and because so much effort went into describing the relationship between Jillene and her children. But good writing and quirky side characters do not make the main characters more interesting, no matter how much you might wish they do.

Reviewed in September 2002 by Wendy B..

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