A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
When Passion – all 535 pages of it – thudded onto my doormat last year I thought, “How jolly tiresome. It has LOTS of pages.” (Oh, all right. That’s NOT a verbatim transcription of what I thought, but the unexpurgated version would shatter forever my carefully cultivated image of being a Genteel Person.) I needn’t have worried my pretty little head about it though, because it turned out to be in one-and-a-half line spacing and LARGE PRINT. That’s twenty-six lines per page and an average of eight words to a line. It’s the size of print I was reading when I was about five years old – except of course, I wasn’t reading words like ‘fucker’ and ‘whore’.
Memo to Headline Review – Please don’t do it. You’re not going to convince anyone that this is a blockbuster. It’s just plain silly – not to mention being a terrible waste of paper.
The presentation of the book is not, of course, the author’s fault. The plot, however, is – and unfortunately it’s just plain silly too.
It involves a pair of star-crossed lovers (natch). One is the bent-out-of-shape-by-thwarted-true-love Will Hyde who attempts to salve his broken heart by becoming fabulously wealthy and a secret agent, not necessarily in that order. The other is the bent-out-of-shape-by–thwarted-true-love-and-controlling-parents Melissa Elmet who buries herself in academia, becoming a tragically frumpy Research Fellow at Oxford. She gets engaged to the worthy Fraser, thinks better of it and is just in the process of dumping him when he conveniently has his head blown apart on Magdalen Bridge by the sexy-but-ice-cold Karelian hit-woman Lola Montoya. Really. He does.
Will realizes that Melissa was the real target and comes gallumphing to her aid, whisking her off to a secret location in a fabulously opulent hotel where we’re treated to a whole page telling us how fabulously opulent it is, and therefore how fabulously wealthy Will is. Once there, and contemplating her dodgy future, Melissa realizes that whilst pointlessly whiling away her life being a successful and respected Research Fellow at Oxford (did I mention that already?) she’d let herself go terribly to seed. You know – the old whipcord muscle had sagged a bit and the hair was looking a tad lacklustre … In fact, Will was thinking much the same thing himself – “Gone a bit to seed. Hair a tad lacklustre. Don’t fancy HER much anymore”. Still, Melissa has time on her hands, some hair colourant in her bag and a nice selection of gym equipment handy; so in no time at all she’s match fit, absolutely gorgeous and Will fancies her something rotten again, so that’s okay. Who needs a poxy research fellowship when you’ve got a hot bloke?
Cue breathless chase across Europe in pursuit of a truly daft MacGuffin – after which they live happily ever after.
I know it’s supposed to be undemanding and lightweight. I know I’m not the target readership. I know thousands of women buy, consume and presumably enjoy Louise Bagshawe’s books. I know it has to be judged for what it is – a piece of foolish escapism designed to while away an afternoon on the beach – but even so, this book really rather depressed me. Not because it sold in truckloads and made pots of money. Not even because it had pink sparkly bits on the cover. No, it depressed me because it was so ludicrously readable – and THAT’s because Louise Bagshawe can write. I mean REALLY write.
I felt like whacking her over the back of the head with it and saying, “Very funny. Now go and write a PROPER book.”
Headline Review. 2009. ISBN: 978-0-7553-3610-4. 535pp.