Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Review: Don't Look Down - Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

SHE is a director of dog food commercials who's just been recruited to finish a four-day movie shoot. But as soon as Lucy Armstrong arrives on set, she discovers that the staff is in chaos, the make-up artist is suicidal, and the stunt director just happens to be her ex-husband. That, and the temperamental lead actor has just acquired as an advisor a Green Beret who has the aggravating habit of always being right. HE thought that hiring on as a military consultant for a movie star was a to-die-for deal: easy work, easy money, easier starlets. But his first day on the job, Captain J.T. Wilder ends up babysitting a bumbling comedian, dodging low-flying helicopters, and trying to find out who's taking "shooting a movie" much too literally
I'm decided to brave a book I've been putting off for a while. Mistake? I'm still unsure...

If you read my review of Anyone But You you'll have gathered that Jennifer Crusie is one of my all time favourite authors. However, after hearing a few negative mumblings about first collaboration with Bob Mayer, Don't Look Down I wasn't sure I wanted to risk it. Obviously, I eventually relented and finally bored a copy, accompanied by an eyebrow raise, from my sister.

My initial impression was not good, in my review of ABY I waxed lyrical about how Crusie manages to spin a whole cast of rich characters with out making it confusing, not so in Don't Look Down. Within the first few pages the reader is subjected to a huge 'infodump' including a whole host of characters, most of which I couldn't keep straight for the first few chapters or so, in the words of J.T Wilder what a "clusterfuck". On the topic of J. T. Wilder himself I have many a word to say.

Initially I was really intrigued by the concept of the Crusie/Mayer collaboration, having a man write the male character's POV and a woman the female POV seemed an inspired idea. However, I think Crusie and Mayer come from such different backgrounds that this really didn't gel well at all. Crusie is all about the heart and the dialogue, Mayer, in his own words, is all about the killing. In fact Mayer owns up on the Crusie-Mayer website to the fact that, "the hard parts were having him [Wilder] actually speak."I'm not surprised given this startling insight, curtesy of Captain J.T Wilder - our hero!, into woman's psyche:
Wilder waited for the women to start talking about shoes or giving birth or whatever it was that women talked about, but both were silent as stones.
Now, I honestly don't believe this is a reflection of Mayer's beliefs at all but his attempts at writing a 'man's man' are quite honestly hysterical. We're supposed to fall for this bozo!? Mayer, an ex green beret himself, really excels at the detail given to Captain Wilder and I can see why his books are so popular, however, in a romance - as this was billed - there is a little too much focus on death and violence for my liking.

Lucy is the archetypal Crusie heroine, dealing with life's blows and rushing to help everyone in sight, with a healthy dose of snark mixed in. The relationship between Lucy and her sister is wonderfully written and Pepper is an enchanting young addition to the cast. Considering the novel takes place over a four day period things do move a tad too fast for me (but what's new in the romance world?) but the obligatory sex scenes do seem to lack any real depth or vigour (, excuse the word choice.). But, having read the website, this is explained by the fact that they were only included on the instance of the publisher.

Finally, the external plot and common antagonist seemed rushed, confused and ... what the heck even was the plot in this novel? I've honestly only just put the book down and I couldn't explain it to you. Confusing, meandering and a little loose at the end I honestly just didn't get it.

It is clear that this is the first collaboration between Crusie and Mayer and that it was most definitely a work in progress and even something that was still being negotiated with publishers. Personally I think that the two voices are too distinct in this initial venture and that the transition between the two characters is jarring to say the least. You can also tell that Crusie crafted the majority of the padding of the novel so the Mayer/Wilder sections really do pop.

I am not entirely put off by the premise which definitely has promise and I will be giving Agnes and the Hitman a go. I'm also intrigued to read one of Mayer's novels which I do think I will enjoy. Overall, I was disappointed by the novel but I think that I was expecting it to reach the dizzying heights achieved by Crusie's pervious books.

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