Several pages into Plain Jane I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with me. The book is labeled as a New York Times Bestseller, yet from almost the first page to the end, I alternated between being bored and annoyed and found very little that made me want to keep reading. It failed, both as a mystery and as a romance, to hold my interest. Too much was going on, and perhaps because of that, though every attempt was made to make the characters quirky, they were flat and underdeveloped.
The story is about, or supposed to be about, Jane Lewis, a plain, frumpy girl during high school and college but who has now bloomed into a confident and successful woman. She works as a psychiatrist and also has a radio talk show, but a creepy new client is bothering her and reminding her of some past trauma. Because of the client, she gets together with the popular boy from her high school, Michael Sorenson, now also a psychiatrist. Meanwhile, she has to deal with that past trauma—a rape of a girl she knew—and try to solve the mystery of who did it and why. She also has to deal with the ghosts, yes, ghosts, inhabiting her old house, as well as the spirit of her abusive mother. Then there’s another subplot involving her godparents who write mystery novels and raise police dogs….
There is very little time in this story for romance with all of that going on, but that was all right, since Michael was barely there. Even then, I couldn’t understand why he stayed; Jane is a completely unsympathetic character. (I was a plain Jane in high school and I still couldn’t like her!) There were a lot of coincidences that help her solve the mystery as well, so many that after a while I had a hard time believing any of it.
I give Fern Michaels credit for having a heroine that tries to solve a crime on her own, and for making the hero secondary. I also applaud her for bringing up the subject of rape and its effect on, not only the victim, but the victim’s family as well. But as a romance or as a mystery, the tension just wasn’t there to keep me interested.