Friday, May 11, 2012

Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer

My Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

Lucy Armstrong normally directs television commercials with dogs because the dogs are easy to work with. Then her sister, Daisy, calls to ask her to direct the last four days of an action movie and Lucy reluctantly agrees to help out, mainly so that she can spend time with her niece, Pepper. However, the film’s stunt coordinator is Lucy’s ex-husband, who seems to be under the impression that she is still in love with him and then the lead actor turns up with Captain J.T. Wilder, his Green Beret advisor. As Lucy tries to workout why a romantic comedy requires so many stunts, she has to handle neurotic actors, a very pushy Irish backer and her niece’s new obsession with Wonder Woman. J.T. soon finds that he has been maneuvered on to the set by the CIA and that there is someone out in the swamps trying to kill him. Casting her single eye over proceedings is the alligator, Moot, who is always happy to snack on anybody stupid enough to invade her swamp.

The main reason that I picked up this book was because the book group read ‘Agnes and the Hitman’ by the same pair of authors and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Both books make good use of the different strengths of the two authors. Ms Crusie has a witty, funny voice that makes her heroines very appealing and sympathetic, whilst Mr Mayer gives us manly men who are confused by women in general but helpless to withstand the powerful attraction of the particular woman in the book. Both books follow a similar basic outline: a strong woman is plunged into a dangerous situation and becomes reliant upon, and passionately involved with, a military man as the action carries them along. They both also have a strong cast of secondary characters that are fully realized and well rounded, so that they are more than just plot devices. The suspense and action has real danger behind it, and the leading lady plays a significant role in defeating the adversaries: she is no shrinking violet, but courageous and resourceful, providing her knight in shining armor with some much-needed back up.

I have to assume that Ms Crusie writes the sections from Lucy’s POV, whilst Mr Mayer handles those from the male perspective, however there is no obvious difference in style, so that there is only one ‘voice’ throughout. I found the mixture of Romance elements with Suspense / Action enjoyable, but the real selling point of the book are the characters and relationships that are set up. Young Pepper is just delightful, and so funny, bopping about in her Wonder Woman outfit. She is the grounding center to her little family and all the relationships revolve around her to a certain extent. This provides a way for our protagonists to spend time together whilst still being antagonistic, and also supplies a great reason for them to cooperate later on.

I did have a slight problem with J.T.’s dalliance with the lead actress, but she was naked in his bed, and it did make a nice change for the protagonists to not be all doe-eyed about each other from the beginning. Also, the motives of Nash, the ex-husband, were interesting: for him to be genuinely interested in renewing his relationship with Lucy would have been far too simple. As the book progresses his grip on reality gets more and more tenuous, until he descends into truly bizarre behavior. I guess the character that was the most difficult to accept was Daisy: although we get some explanation for her behavior, she still seems like a really bad mom for most of the book.

Whilst writing my reviews I always have a look at what other people have said about the book in question. In this case, I found a lot of people who were really unimpressed by it, for example, Lesley Dunlap at The Romance Reader and Jane at Dear Author. It seems that they had read a lot of Ms Crusie’s work before this one and were expecting more of a straight Romance, which this is not. However, I did find people who had enjoyed it, such as author Lauren Dane, so I feel a little less strange in saying that it was a good, fun read.

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