19 December 2009

Heather Webber, Truly, Madly. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010.

“There comes a time in every girl’s life when she realizes her father isn’t perfect.”

Even if the father is Oscar Valentine, whose blood carries Cupid’s Curse, a hereditary ability to make matches for others, but not oneself; an ability to read psychic auras. His daughter Lucy had it, but lost it in an electrical accident, so taking over the family match-making business doesn’t much appeal to her. Duty calls, though, so she does her best to pair people using the power she has instead: the ability to find lost objects.

But her first client is still in love with the fiancee he’d lost six years earlier, so Lucy’s talents do come into play. She ends up uncovering, then solving, a murder, rescuing a lost little boy, and falling in love herself as well as laying groundwork for the series to continue. And Truly, Madly is a good start, but Webb is trying too hard. She has a fun premise and enjoyable characters--and a three-book contract; she doesn’t need to give time to dressing her sets with name-brand props. This seductive shorthand of naming, rather than describing, is all too common in the airport-shop fluff genre. While it may be an attempt at realism, it is more likely intended to convey a sense of the privileged environment inhabited by the characters and to which the reader is presumed to aspire. Unfortunately, all it achieves is an impermanence: an Audi A3 is a sleek, sporty roadster, but unless one knows that, the reference is meaningless. This is why writers are told “show, don’t tell”.

But this is a minor point, a failing of the entire type of book; as one of that type, Webb can’t be faulted for following the genre’s convention and, in fact, seems to largely overcome it by the end of the book. Truly, Madly is a lot of fun; not straight romance, not R-rated, not hard-boiled mystery, not just a coming of age acceptance story, and not hung up on its outlandish underlying assumption. Psychic abilities may be unusual, but it’s not hard to see a promising future for Ms. Valentine, the match-making detective, and her new Lost Loves service.