In a previous life, before the time of Plum, I wrote twelve short romance novels. Red-hot screwball comedies, each and every one of them. The romances were originally published between the years 1988 and 1992. All immediately went out of print and could be found only at used bookstores and yard sales.
I’m happy to tell you that those stories have now been re-released by HarperCollins, presented in almost original form. I’ve done only minor editing to correct some embarrassing bloopers missed the first time around.
Hero at Large was the very first book published. It’s about a sexy guy who cooks a potholder in spaghetti sauce and charms a single mom and former world-class ice skater with the promise of a ride on his Zamboni. It’s got broken bones, giant turkeys, cantankerous cars, and Aunt Edna.
This was the book that changed my life forever and made me a published author. When Hero finally reached the bookstores, I was almost arrested for loitering in Walden’s. I stationed myself in the romance section and wouldn’t leave until I saw someone buy my book. It took three days!
I had expected Hero at Large to be complete fluff. I was wrong. Although it features a zany protagonist with an even zanier Aunt Edna (easily recognizable as an early version of Stephanie Plum’s Grandma from Janet Evanovich’s most famous series), that’s not all there is to this story.
When the protagonist, Chris, encounters a man who appears to be the Real Deal, Mr. Right, and Prince Charming all rolled into one, she immediately slams shut the doors of her heart. As a single mom, she’s already fallen for an impossibly unrealistic Happily Ever After, and she’s not doing that again. The first half of the book focuses on how Ken manages to get past her defenses and convince her that he’s for real.
The second half of the book, though, is where things get really interesting. Ken’s not all that he seems. So the question is, can Chris entrust the happiness and safety of both herself and her daughter to someone who hasn’t been honest with her? I loved that Evanovich doesn’t gloss over this. It’s a serious dilemma. Chris would’ve been a reckless and unlikable character had she just thrown her lot in with Ken, without giving serious thought to the emotional well-being of her daughter. I love the fact that Chris has to come to grips not only with changing her expectations of life, but trusting someone even when they’ve screwed up.
I’ve read several of Evanovich’s early, pre-Plum books. If they were all as good as this one, I’d be in hog heaven.
My Only Critique: As I mentioned, “Aunt Edna” is an early version of the Grandma in the Stephanie Plum series. Having become accustomed to borrowed characters and plots thanks to L.M. Montgomery’s habit of pilfering both throughout her many books, this didn’t bother me at all. But it’s possible that this might bother others.