A second outing by Killham (How to Cook a Tart, 2002) alternately spoofs and succumbs to the conventions of genre romance.
Jack Carter, aka Celeste d’Arcy, is at the top of his game as a romance author. His Regency characters, Primrose and Guy, lounge around inspiring him with what will prove to be this novel’s wittiest repartee. (Although the setting is Venice Beach, Calif., and the characters are American, the dialogue is pure cheeky Brit-speak.) Recently, after too many encounters with women who only want one thing, Jack has decided to become a “born-again virgin” and save himself for true love. Meanwhile, his sister Kate tries seaweed, exorcism, feng shui, testosterone patches, anything to recharge her flagging libido, but her husband’s girth keeps dampening her ardor. Their teenage daughter Leda is experimenting with hooking up and directing Internet porn videos. Kate sends her newly destitute and recently evicted friend Molly to stay with Jack—Molly is unemployed as a result of a sexual harassment scandal (she’s the perp). Jack’s elderly mother Rita, meanwhile, is a sexual harasser-wannabe deterred only by the male-female ratio (1-10) at her retirement community. While Jack labors to cement a rules-driven abstinent relationship with blonde ice-queen Heather, he finds himself inexorably drawn to lush brunette Molly, who’s the ideal combination of randy but well-intentioned. But she hesitates to exploit Jack’s suppressed longings—except as a conduit to his editor. Soon, as Molly Desire, she’s outstripping him career-wise, penning romance spiced with S&M and erotica, while Primrose and Guy are locked out by their author’s sudden creativity deficit. Molly gets pregnant by one of her interchangeable lovers, possibly the Fabio clone who models during Jack’s bookstore appearances, while, in another trite twist, Mom proves too sexy for the nursing home. Obstacles to achieving the coy title’s intent, uh, snowball. In a Valentine’s Day ensemble set-piece worthy of a bad sitcom pilot, the scattershot plot unravels, and abrupt reversals and convenient changes of heart dictate the predictable dénouement.