Firstly, the cover:
Jessica is wearing a weirdly low-cut top. I like how the guy playing Louis is wearing a tweed blazer (look at those elbows!) which is clearly far too big for him. Also, if he teaches Medieval History why does he need a globe in his office?
Anyway, on with the recap!
Advance warning: There's so much going on in this book that I've had to split it into four separate plots. Fun fun fun!
Jessica and Louis
We open where #15 left off, with Jessica kissing Professor Louis Miles in his car (about 2 minutes away from SVU, by the way. Smart move, kids). For those of you who haven’t read the first book in this arc, Jessica has the hots for her Medieval History professor. Professional boundaries? Danger of being fired? Not when Jessica is in loooove! We learn that Louis is ‘young, handsome, and sexier than any man she had ever known.’ James, Mike, Sam, Christian....never mind. Anyway, Louis tells her again that their relationship is inappropriate and takes her home, but not before telling her she can call him Louis instead of Professor Miles. I think about this for a second and feel a bit creeped out that you would make out with someone you call ‘Professor’. But hey, this guy wears a tweed jacket so it must be alright. Jessica sits in her dorm and vows to make Louis hers. Seeing as the title of this book is ‘The Other Woman’, I think that may be a problem.
We switch to Louis in his beachfront condo (pretty swish for someone on a professor’s salary) and the ghostwriter just about falls over herself in her attempts to create a tense atmosphere, with ‘turbulent black waves’ and ‘eerie white foam’. I think Louis had better go clean himself up. He is worried for a moment because he thinks he can smell Chloe’s – oops, did I say Chloe? I mean *someone’s* cloying perfume, but all is well when he thinks of his forbidden love with Jessica again. Then his mood swings again and he smashes a mug with his bare hands (Todd would be impressed) while vowing never to see her again for her own safety.
Jess is sitting with the Thetas daydreaming when Louis shows up. Alison tries to flirt with him but when Louis recommends they ask Jessica about the class, Jess gets such a fright that she burns her mouth on her coffee and ‘swallowed and moaned loudly’. Sexy. She becomes paranoid that the rest of her friends can tell what’s happened and leaves. Later, we get more not-so-subtle foreshadowing from Louis where his heart pounds and he talks about checking rearview mirrors repeatedly. My stalker sense is tingling.
Jess is helping Bruce and Lila move house (more on that later) and by a
contrivance coincidence, Louis lives just next door. She goes towards him but OH NOEZ! The other woman of the title has finally arrived and is draped over Louis. We know we aren’t supposed to like her because she has dark curly hair, which is unacceptable in Sweet Valley. Jessica sits in the bathroom and cries. When she leaves, Louis appears and drags her behind the dunes, somehow knocking them both over. They kiss and make up, but when Jess asks about the woman she saw Louis conveniently clams up and rushes her off to her car. She leaves, but it’s too late – the dark-haired woman has seen her and the inconspicuous bright red Jeep she drives. I can see this being important later!
Jessica is in her dorm waiting for Louis to call when Elizabeth shows up and makes some snide remarks about Bruce and Lila ‘playing house’. Jessica is angry and tells her: ‘You and Tom are in love and you say it’s serious. But you always act like other people’s relationships are just superficial crushes. Do you think you’re the only person on this campus capable of falling in love for real?’ So true, although Jess was probably the worst person to give this line to. She worries that she overreacted but I am cheering. The phone rings and Jess frantically asks for ‘Louis?’ before the person hangs up. I’ve no idea who that could have been. Liz twigs that Jess loves ‘Louis’ and she makes a rubbish excuse about it being a guy in her biology class. Biology? How many classes do these sisters take? More importantly, how do they find the time inbetween kidnappings, dances and exciting life-or-death chases to go to any of them?
Louis is in his office and all he can smell is a cloying perfume. He phones Jessica and, in his smartest move of the book, tells him they can’t be together because it’s dangerous and that she isn’t mature enough. She cries. He cries. I yawn.
However, Jess isn't one to be deterred by danger or death and goes to class the next day wearing the same outfit she wore when they built a sandcastle on the beach. Unfortunately, all her Theta friends are there and tease her about swearing off of love. Louis is equally pissed off when he gives his lecture on chivalry. Jess shows us her slightly twisted view of life when she complains: ‘He was a coward who was too afraid of losing his job to take a chance on love.’ How terrible! It’s not like he’d be facing being blacklisted from the teaching profession, possible jail time...Nothing is more important than loving Jessica Wakefield, dammit!
We switch back to Theta house, where Jessica is still being emo and not eating any food. I guess heartache really does do wonders for that perfect size six figure. She leaves and, when Isabella tells her Winston and Denise have split because he cheated on the physics exam to stay with her (more on that later too), says it’s the most romantic thing she’s ever heard. Really? I can think of a few adjectives to describe that and ‘romantic’ isn’t one of them.
She goes home, falls over (ha!) then goes to Louis’ house and shouts at him. Because it’s stormy and raining, we know hot stuff is going to happen. Of course, they make out and (presumably) have sex. !!! The next morning Louis worries about how obvious the two of them were, particularly with Jess’ bright red Jeep driving home through the white sandy dunes. Hang on, didn’t Louis realise Chloe saw Jessica’s car the *first* time he came round? And yet he let her stay over anyways? You’d think that being a professor would make him a little bit smarter than he actually is.
Liz asks Jessica where she was and she lies and says that her relationship with ‘Louis from biology’ failed. Then she finds a book with a blonde woman and a unicorn on the cover (seriously? What the hell does this medieval history even cover?) which Louis apparently finds sexy. We get a passing reference to the Unicorns! Then she decides to drive back to Louis in the bright red Jeep to give him this book. No prizes for what happens next...The dark-haired woman, Chloe (it only took 218 pages to get to her name), attempts to run her off the road while letting Louis hear it all over the phone. Jessica somehow avoids being killed when Chloe turns up and drops the bombshell that she is Louis’ wife. I bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? Not with a title like ‘The Other Woman’ or anything! DUN DUN DUN!
Elizabeth and Todd (OTP? Don’t get your hopes up)
Elizabeth and Todd are working together to investigate SVU paying players to lose matches. Interesting, right? No, I didn’t think so either. Last book they spoke to Dr Beal, the head of administration, but they got nowhere. Anyway, they are visiting dropout and basketball ace Daryl Cartright. When Daryl gets annoyed at their probing questions Liz uses her amazing journalistic skills and just starts shouting at him. By that logic, I should have a Pulitzer Prize based on the number of heated arguments I’ve had with my siblings. And let’s be honest, when Todd has to tell you you’re being too aggressive, you’re doing something wrong.
Liz asks about point shaving (I love that term). Daryl tries to kick them out but Todd plays good cop and lets him know of his own dealings with the athletics department (he was banned for accepting privileges and is trying to get his place back on the team). Daryl doesn’t bite and tries to get them to leave when hey presto, in comes Daryl’s cute little sister who has leg problems and needs braces to walk. We also learn that Daryl’s looking after his three younger siblings alone. Todd and Liz click that Daryl agreed to drop points in return for medical help for his sister. Daryl tells them to gtfo.
We get a boring scene where Liz and Todd eat some food and discuss what to do. Todd worries that they’re getting in over their heads and thinks that maybe they should wait for Tom to get back from his sporting event in Las Vegas (by the way, he’s upset that Liz is working on this with her ex-boyfriend). Liz refuses to quit in the face of danger. Because we know how well that worked for her last time. She suggests bringing Todd’s girlfriend Gin-Yung into things; Todd worries that ‘he didn’t want to foul up his relationship with her by bringing her into a threesome with Elizabeth.’ I hope that was deliberate innuendo on the ghostwriter’s part. However, he doormats (that makes a change) and they agree to call her. Gin-Yung arrives and is predictably threatened by Liz’s ‘tall, willowy blonde’ physique (is 5 foot 6 really that tall?) in comparison to her ‘five-foot, one-inch’ stature. Brunettes, overweight people, short people...I’m just about all of those things, so I guess a lynch mob would be out for me if I ever stepped foot onto the glorious sands of SV.
Gin-Yung takes about two seconds to work out that T. Clay Santos (do people really initial their first name, then give their middle and surnames? It looks incredibly weird to me), the head of the Alumni Association, is also the head of the gambling ring. Todd manages to get her to stay out of the investigation for her safety. Finally, someone who listens! Shame she has a brain tumour which is going to kill her in a few books' time.
We hear from Mark Gathers who, like Todd, was suspended for taking privileges, only he decided to quit SVU altogether. He tried to make it as a pro but the big wide world is horrible to those within the Sweet Valley bubble, so he has returned after Todd tracked him down. He sees some of his old friends and feels awkward and annoyed. Then he decides to leave, but not before gazing at Alex’s legs lustfully. What was the point in that scene?
Todd phones lots of alumni to try and find out more about the point shaving and makes an appointment with someone called Chuck Hooper. The phone rings and he answers thinking it’s Liz, but it’s another threatening phone call. There are a lot of these in this book. He phones Liz and somehow she has set up an appointment with Santos’ secretary. Hooray! Maybe this plot will finally become interesting.
Liz and Todd head off to see Santos, and I have to quote this:
“Listen, Todd. I know all this is really hard for you to take,” Elizabeth said. “But no matter what happens, don’t lose your temper with Santos today.”
“Me? Lose my temper? I’m the mildest-mannered guy in the world.”
Santos has a nice house with lots of security. Blah blah blah. The man himself is apparently ‘small and balding, with a deep dimple and twinkling eyes.’ Watch out you two; those flashes are twinkles of EVIL. They discover that although he’s head of the Alumni Association (I am neither American nor have I graduated for university yet, so I don’t know what on earth this entails), he wasn’t actually a student at SVU, and I don’t understand what relevance that has to anything. He offers Todd his academic scholarship, no questions asked...then threatens them about as subtly as hitting them over the head with a brick, which would have been more interesting to read.
The next day, Liz and Todd go to meet up with Mark, who is annoyed by the ‘cryptic antagonism’ of Liz’s words. You and me both. They hassle him about his expensive car and ask him if he was ever paid to lose matches. Mark brilliantly thinks that Elizabeth ‘was uptight, sanctimonious and humourless. The type who was always sneering at people who weren’t like her.’, then leaps at Todd. Dramatic cut! I hope there was punching involved!
...but we don’t get to find out because all of a sudden we’re with good old Tom Watts (remember him?) feeling guilty about not contacting Liz. He goes to phone her and get no response. He thinks to himself that nothing is fun without Elizabeth with him. Just wow. We go back to him a few chapters later when he finally talks to her; she is distracted with working on the story and he gets jealous of Todd. Zzz. Didn’t we just cover this whole Todd-Elizabeth-Tom angle in book 8? Todd and Liz decide to visit Daryl *again*. They annoy him some more until he snaps and admits that yes, he was paid to lose games and no, he won’t tell the authorities. Liz and Todd can’t understand why not.
I’m going to shorten the rest of it because it’s incredibly boring. Tom and Gin-Yung are both worried about their respective other halves; Todd and Liz find out that Chuck also accepted money to lose but won’t talk about it.
Mark goes to meet Santos who offers him lots of money to watch the players. As he leaves, he hears Santos ordering a tail on Elizabeth’s bright red Jeep. Hmm...See where this is going? The next day Liz is called to see Dr Beal who throws out lots of glossy photos of Jessica and Louis getting it on. She runs off crying. Mark is there for some reason and sees the photos, but doesn’t really care since he’s back on the team.
I think that may be one of the dullest B-plots ever. But don’t worry, because up next we have...
Bruce and Lila are moving in together! Hooray! As mentioned earlier, they’re moving into a beachfront condo near Louis. I am jealous. Lila is upset because she ordered twenty place settings of china and only eighteen have arrived; Bruce is busy hauling a box of trophies up the stairs. Bruce and Lila make out; Jessica feels awkward (ha!) and leaves.
But alas! They are sitting daydreaming about their life together when their realtor arrives and tells them that their cheque has bounced. Apparently it has RETURN! INSUFFICIENT FUNDS! stamped all over it. Lila’s money is all tied up back in Italy after the count’s death and Bruce’s money is in the hands of Uncle Dan, who hates the idea of Bruce moving in with a woman. He calls Lila a ‘fortune hunter’ . How dare he?! They decide to find somewhere cheaper (Lila actually has to whisper the word ‘cheap’ because she can’t bear saying it out loud!).
They go to some terrible old house, but Bruce gives the landlady the ‘Bruce Patman All-American-Boy-Hunk Smile’. I want one of those. The house is horrific (by regular standards as well as Bruce/Lila standards) and Bruce is about to refuse when Lila jumps in and exclaims that it’s perfect.
Next we get some wacky hijinks about their time living together. Lila attempts to cook but doesn’t know the difference between a gas oven and an electric oven so lets the (gas) oven heat for five minutes, managing to set Bruce’s hair on fire when he comes to light it. Lila hides out in the bathroom until Bruce helpfully points out that their whole kitchen is on fire but guess what? They haven’t paid a phone bill yet. Another dramatic chapter cut (only this time one I actually care about)...
...and hooray, Bruce and Lila are still alive! If they can survive being stranded in the mountains, I’m sure a little house fire is nothing to them. It never explains how they managed to solve the problem, though. Bruce goes to get pizza and gets caught in a thunderstorm (what is with this book and bad weather?!). Another great quote:
“Thinking about me?” he asked in a low, romantic voice.
“Actually, I was mentally redecorating,” she murmured.
That’s the Lila Fowler I know and love. She and Bruce are just about to start making out when BAM, the ceiling of their flat collapses and water gushes in.
Later, Lila is trying to clean the bathroom and ‘beads of sweat dripped down her brow’. Is it that difficult to scrub, I wonder? She tries to have a bath but when she gets in the hot water runs out. To add to her woes, a workman arrives at her house and tries to fix the roof, followed by a phone guy (technical term?) wanting money. After he fixes the roof, the workman thinks of Lila and Bruce as charity and gives them $10 for food! Lila, however, starts crying with happiness as she thinks it’s incredibly kind. Aww. I kind of want to hug her right now. The plot ends for now with Lila and Bruce arguing, then having a pillow fight and annoying the neighbours. I knew they were my favourite couple for a reason!
Winston is failing physics because he is constantly distracted by his girlfriend Denise, and he’s terrified of what his parents will say. At the end of the last book he went to his professor’s office to get revision notes but stumbled upon a copy of the test answers instead. He has a moral dilemma about whether or not to use it, but decides that it’s the right thing to do if it’s in the name of love! I feel that this is a running idea in this book. However, he doesn’t do a very good job of cheating since he answers every question perfectly and is caught in about two seconds. Note: if you have been failing a class all year, don't suddenly get 100%! Professor Stark phones Winston’s parents; I’m sure we’ll hear more on that later.
Winston gets to break the bad news to Denise. She agrees with me that cheating for love is a stupid idea and slaps him across the face!!! She cries and leaves. He cries too. Everyone cries.
Now we hear about the disciplinary meeting. The professor judging it, Dr Stratton, offers to put Winston on academic probation and give him a second chance.
But if he did that, how would this sub-plot stretch across to the end of this arc? Not an option! Winston’s parents reject this idea and instead both jump up. Apparently Winston is worried about his mum’s ‘serious pocketbook action’. Heh. They suggest that Winston joins the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to ‘mould his character’. Stratton agrees!
Finally we see Winston about to start his training, imagining himself as a soldier going on a suicide mission to save the world. In his daydream he is ‘brooding and emotionally mysterious’ and speaks in a ‘deep baritone’. His sacrifice moves him to tears but he is snapped out of his reverie by a woman’s voice....It’s Denise! She’s signed up to ROTC to be with him! They make up but are interrupted by the head officer. Winston promptly makes a fool of himself whereas Denise shines.
These storylines are all concluded in the final book of the series, Deadly Attraction. Hopefully that wasn't too boring for you all! :)