Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: The Hello Girl by Merline Lovelace

An American woman enlists in the U. S. Army as a telephone operator during WWI. While in France, her quick skill and French fluency earned the notice of her superiors as well as a dashing pilot in The Air Force. She is promoted to the coveted status of "Hello Girl," an elite sect of operators tasked to connect calls from the front lines, but when her lover's plane goes down in enemy territory, Marie makes a decision that changes the course of her life forever, a decision whose aftershocks ripple into the future causing a disturbance in the life of Lt. Annie Dunbar and her estranged husband Brian.

Despite the promise of historical romance and the gorgeous, classically styled cover, Lovelace's novel did not deliver the quality of plot and writing I had hoped for. The novel was interesting at times but fairly atypical and unoriginal. Marie was by far the most interesting and inspiring character, but even her story was downplayed in favor of Annie and Brian's "will they or won't they" relationship. Even Marie's promised act of heroism fell flat.

There was plenty of romance and passion bordering on outlandish. As her last name implies, Lovelace is a fan of over-the-top expressions of intimacy. I was expecting romance but not one that overt. I was also surprised to find I had purchased two novels. The Hello Girl is simply the cover title of the two book set, the second of which is uninspiringly titled Ex Marks the Spot. Normally I delight in two books for the price of one, but I quickly realized I was duped. Ex Marks the Spot may have a different setting, but the characterization and major plot tensions mirror almost exactly those in The Hello Girl. It's only redeeming feature is the bookstore main character Andi, see Annie above, launches. Like The Hello Girl, Ex Marks the Spot is also prone to groan inducing, and not in a good way, "romantic" cliches like "bonged like Big Ben" and "the yeasty smell of their lovemaking."

I was confused. The book's cover and synopsis did not imply the novel(s) was a bodice ripper, but then I saw, buried in the acknowledgements, the Harlequin logo. Yes, I had just read not one but two Harlequin romances. Now I don't mean to sound like a literary snob. I have read Harlequin and other trashy romances before, but I entered into them fully aware of what I was reading and with low expectations the novels did not fail to meet. These books are meant as free time wasters, best consumed on a beach with a margarita or two. Lovelace's novel(s) were masquerading as reputable historical fiction, in my eyes, and while I was entertained, I was not impressed.

Best matched with romance enthusiasts who also have a penchant for military men.

No comments:

Post a Comment