The Damsel in This Dress, by Marianne Stillings

>> Thursday, June 23, 2005

Marianne Stillings was one of my favourite reviewers when she was at AAR. Not only did I tend to agree with her assessments, her reviews were always entertaining, even when she was giving books a C. So, when she got published, deciding to get her first book, The Damsel in This Dress, was a no-brainer.

Port Henry Ledger Book Review by Betsy Tremaine: WRONG GUY HAS THE WRITE STUFF IN TORRID LOVE STORY

Let me tell you, dear reader, I've rarely been subjected to such drivel as I have in the novels of bestselling tough-guy cop-turned-author J. Soldier McKennitt. The man himself, however, is considerably more interesting. Having finally met him at a recent writers' conference in Seattle, I am pleased to report that Soldier is a tall, dark, and gorgeous hunk of literary superstar. To my surprise, he became quite the charmer once his self-righteous indignation evaporated ... Could it have been this critic's blonde hair and hourglass figure that brought about such an abrupt turnaround? Or perhaps our Soldier boy was simply vanquished by this reviewer's intelligence and caustic wit. In any case, due to the recent emergence of a crazed stalker, this plot has since thickened uncomfortably, and Detective McKennitt has brashly assumed the role of my knight in shining Brooks Brothers.

Bottom Line: The only thing standing in the way of a beautiful relationship in this love story is the fact that the two protagonists are so deliriously, passionately wrong for each other!
I consider this a very, very promising debut. I had some problems with it, especially with the second half, but on the whole, it was an enjoyable read. A B.

I got really, really excited while reading the first part of the book. I was getting that tingly feeling I get when reading a book that is heading towards keeper status. The plot felt fresh, so did the characters (mostly, at least), and the humour, which was of the "cute" variety, was making me laugh out loud instead of barf.

There were so many details I appreciated... just to mention a few: Betsy's drunken email to Soldier, the setting at the mystery conference, the story they produce in the workshop, Soldier's immediate meltdown-grade lust for Betsy, the scene with the fortune cookies, the fact that Betsy reacted like a normal person to the stalker... I was having fun!

But then the action moved to Betsy's hometown and ::fizzle::. For some reason, the romance became a bit less exciting to me. It kind of felt as if Betsy and Soldier's relationship stalled and they started going round and round.

And even worse, the main problem was that the stalker plot came to the forefront. What had felt intriguing and fascinating in the first chapters, became almost humdrum, and while both Betsy and Soldier had behaved very sensibly then, in this part there's such an obvious line of investigation that they ignore that I felt like tearing out my hair. Also, I felt the body count climbed way too high for the mood of the book.

There were also certain details about the characters that made me roll my eyes a little bit... for instance, Betsy's nonexistent social life and Soldier's fixation with her "innocence", though, to be fair, Betsy wasn't really this naive woman Soldier saw when he looked at her. Oh, and Soldier's reasons for being on leave from work were such a cliché! I mean, getting life insurance must be very expensive if you're a cop and your partner's a romance hero!

For all these problems, I did like the book. The main thing was that I adored Stillings' voice, so I'm definitely going to keep an eye on her.


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