The Sexiest Dead Man Alive, by Jane Blackwood

>> Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Sexiest Dead Man Alive (excerpt) was my first book by Jane Blackwood, under that name or her previous one, Jane Goodger.

Declan McDonald has been dead for two years. At least that's what everyone thinks. Certain that his pop idol status cost his brother his life, the superstar has faked his own death and sentenced himself to exile in a bleak mansion. But even the most extreme self-imposed punishment has its loophole. Dec is tired of TV dinners. Rose Pisano thinks it's a little odd that someone has offered her $80,000 a year to be a personal chef, and the fact that she talks with her employer over a speaker seems strange, too, but she needs the money. Dec soon becomes infatuated with the spunky chef, not to mention her food, and when they accidentally meet, it's obvious they're made for each other. However, Dec doesn't want to, once again, subject someone he loves to the risks that go hand-in-hand with superstardom.
This is one of those books which start well, but which go downhill later on. My grade would be a C.

The first part of the book was good. It would have been easy to go overboard with the whole mystery thing about the invisible employer, but Blackwood didn't. It really would have been tiring if it had gone on for almost all the book, but, as it was, it might even have gone on for a while longer and still worked. Anyway, once Rosalie finds out who exactly "Mac" is, the romance develops beautifully. They really talk to each other, and listen, and come to know one another before they fall in love. It was really sweet.

Rose was actually a fun character. I liked how she would joke about anything and refused to take some of Declan's more paranoid thoughts seriously. I especially liked how she refused to let herself be too impressed by his fame, and I thought it was a nice touch that she hadn't really been much of a fan before his disappearance. It removed all taint of hero-worship from the relationship. Declan was an interesting character in the first part of the book, basically because I did believe that he had been driven to almost crazyness by the papparazzi, so I thought his years in seclusion were actually understandable, if a little over the edge.

But then the book really deteriorated in the second half, once Declan was out in the open again. The main conflict in this part of the book was Declan feeling that he wanted to be with Rose but oh, no, he couldn't ask her to share this type of life with him! All those papparazzi torturing them! How he wished he could have a normal life with her, away from all this. My problem with this was that it might have worked IF he hadn't done all he could to revive his career, after reappearing. Thus, I felt his whole problem was self-created. There was no need for him to go to all kinds of talk shows and promotion thingies. He didn't need money, and he would have been able to write his music and even record it and release it without all this he supposedly hated. If he was serious about what he wanted, he would simply have had his press conference announcing he was alive, married Rose and proceeded to have a perfectly boring life with her. After about a month of Declan and his new wife Rose having dinner at such and such restaurant and Declan and his new wife Rose going to the supermarket, I bet he'd have been left mostly alone. To make it completely clear, I didn't mind his promoting his career per se. What bothered me was the double talk. If he had decided that ok, he liked the whole fame thing, fine. If he had decided to remove himself from the spotlight and actually done it, fine too. But to do all he could to promote himself and then complain about how he couldn't stand the press's persecution, that's just stupid and it made me feel stupid for feeling sorry for him earlier in the book.

Plus, this part of the book was terribly depressing. I can't stand this type of Hollywood settings, filled with shallow celebrities and manipulative users.

I wasn't too fond of the subplot about Leah's song either, I'm afraid. It felt like a bit of a manipultive thing, like the author was trying as hard as she could to tug on my heartstrings, and I tend to resent that.

And a bit of nitpicking: I got a bit distracted by the term "hoards" of people, used at least 3 times in the book. Doesn't anyone proof-read these things? If a mistake is obvious enough for someone like me, for whom English is a second language, it should definitely be obvious enough for a copy-editor or editor to catch. It was especially distracting because I've just finished Face the Fire, by Nora Roberts, where Mia was "hording" her strength a few times, too... There were quite a few of that kind of mistakes, like you're for your, or, most puzzling, taught for taut.

Anyway, I won't completely give up on this author after reading this, but I'll look for a bit of feedback before trying her again.


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