Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Feature Review: "Prime Time," By Hank Phillippi Ryan

By BECKE DAVIS, RBTB Contributing Editor

Don’t talk to investigative reporter Charlie McNally about the prime of her life – not when her forty-something face is pulled off-camera in favor of a voice-over! It was never like this for Brenda Starr. . .

Who hasn’t wished that time would stand still, or that crow’s feet, wrinkles and sagging . . . everything, would magically disappear? When your career depends on looking young, and your savings aren’t for a rainy day – they’re for future plastic surgery – you’ve entered The Television Zone.

Television’s ode to youth is as familiar to the heroine of Hank Phillipi Ryan's "Prime Time," Charlie McNally, as the nose on Charlie's perfectly made-up face. She’s married to her job at Channel 3 and worried about being replaced by a younger woman – she’s forty-six, for God’s sake, and in television, every year is another nail in the coffin. With her job on the line and no life to speak of, Charlie stumbles upon a story that could revitalize her sagging career – if it doesn’t kill her first. Course they don’t teach in Journalism school: age and spidey-sense trump youth and shiny lip gloss every time.

In this taut, Agatha Award-winning series opener, Phillippi Ryan, an investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate, writes with the voice of experience, baiting the hook with whispers of a whistle-blowing scandal, just in time for the November sweeps. Aided by her trusty assistant, Franklin, Charlie McNally delves into a case of accidental death that may be murder, and possibly much more.

Following a lead, Charlie finds herself exchanging Shakespearean quotes with a hot – think young Gregory Peck – professor, Josh Gelston, who may be a little too eager to help. For a woman who still Googles her ex-husband in weak moments, the temptation to put her trust in a sexy man who doesn’t hide his interest – even if he is a potential suspect – is too strong to resist.

Phillippi Ryan reels us in with snappy dialogue, a memorable cast and a mystery packed with satisfying twists. Can’t get enough of Charlie? The intrepid reporter and her cleverly-named cat, Botox, will be back in “Face Time” in August, and in “Air Time,” which debuts in September. If you’re looking for something to read at the beach –

Buy the book!

What do you love about this quirky style of heroine/protagonist, and romantic suspense series? Have you entered a kind of "Television Zone" in your own life or job? How do you counteract it?
Friday: Celeste O. Norfleet GuestBlogs! Meet n greet the delightful author behind "Sultry Storms" from Kimani's hot Mother Nature Matchmaker series. She's also a talented and prolific author of young adult novels for Kimani TRU. Celeste is wondering whether romance HEAs deliver a little more than we can, well, deliver in real life? Please join us!


Myrin said...

Oh my, so sorry I missed your nice words about my own humble person yesterday, but I think I was already abed when they were posted (talking about time difference!).

Isn't my bunny cute, Becke? I think it's the sweetest thing I ever found on the internet. Maybe I should give him a name, too, so that he and Hugo Montmorency can converse properly. Any ideas, anyone?

Okay, ahem, now to today's actual topic.
I don't think (well, actually I know it) I've ever read a romance with the heroine being older than forty. The oldest one must have been 37 or something, which I find highly unfair. I mean, we're used to reading about young heroines but don't "older" (not as in being old but as in being older than the 18-year-old-Regency-virgin) women have sexual lives, too? As I'm definitely the baby here, would anyone enlighten me concerning the sex life of women over forty?

(Ya see, Becke, you couldn't possible be more risqué than I am - read the blog when Zack Knight visited here and you'll see how naughty we really are...)

So the heroine's age alone makes for a very interesting fact, as well as the combination with her job. I like the whole concept and just having read that blurb I want to go out and read the book!

I wouldn't say I'm in a "Television Zone". I'm rather in a "Lazy Zone" at the moment as I'm still at school (graduation next year, yessss!) and there are only three weeks left until the summer holidays so there isn't much going on anywhere. The weather's bad so there is even less going on. But with you guys, I can manage!

Becke Davis said...

Hi Lisa! I suggest you lean in close to your bunny's picture -- maybe he'll whisper his name in your ear, the way Hugo Montmorency whispered his name in mine. (Rabbits pukkas speak very quietly, so listen well!)

I have read a couple of books with heroines over forty -- Nora Robert's THE VILLA, for instance, features three heroines of different generations. The third book in her garden trilogy also features a woman in her forties.

As to the question about sex and older women: I'm a good decade older than Charlie McNally (why lie about it? you can see the picture), and I'm not thin or gorgeous. But, oooh baby, let me assure you that there is indeed sex after forty -- and even fifty.

(I won't go into how I recently embarrassed my son and daughter on two different occasions when they were going through my bathroom cabinets, looking for something -- and finding more than they wanted to know!)

I may well be the only woman to be THRILLED about menopause -- I'll take hot flashes over tampons any time. There are benefits to the empty nest!

Speaking of empty nests, congrats on your upcoming graduation! My daughter got her degree in December 2007 and my son just got his last month. I'm a bit giddy at the thought of no more tuition payments (*fans self*) -- or I could just be having another hot flash!

Becke Davis said...

That should say "rabbit pukkas" -- pukkas being those magical beings like Hugo's famous relative, Harvey.

amy kennedy said...

Ha! Television that's what's going on. I think the heroine sounds like someone I'd want as my friend - and I'm thrilled she's the age she is.

LisaK, do you really want me to tell you about the sex lives of seasoned women? How 'bout I just tell you this: they reallyreallyreally like it.

I may not be in the television zone, but I take greater care in my appearance as I get older. I especially appreciate my hair stylist...and visit her every eight weeks. I used to wash my hair, comb it, and - yeah - go.

Becke Davis said...

Amy - I wish I had been born with a hair styling gene. My hair generally looks good the day I get it trimmed and styled and then it's back to the same old, same old. (And I do mean old.)

I kept it short for years, but my husband said, kind of wistfully, "I used to like your hair long," so -- sucker that I am for that wistful tone -- I've been letting it grow. Feels weird at my age, so I'm keeping it in the shoulder range. My husband likes it, even if it drives me nuts sometimes.

I really feel for Charlie McNally (and Hank, for that matter). Those of us who write don't often have to worry about making an impression in person -- just with words. Maybe that's why so many of us freak out about big meet-and-greets like National!

amy kennedy said...

Becke, I had to cultivate a styling gene, I had to be taught. So now I blow it dry and straighten it (not everyday - I'd be insane inside a week) every other day. Yeah, my husband likes it long too.

We're off to the pool, I'll check-in later.

Tiona said...

Hey, Bellas! The book sounds intriguing, indeed! I always wondered why there weren't more books with more mature women and men in them.
Anywayz, I love a heroine who seems real, she has her own problems, even when she's a celebrity in her own right. You can relate to them more.
As for me, don't really have a celebrity lifestyle, hehe. The only time I feel like I BETTER be wearing make-up is when I go out, out, like to the movies, or when I see my cousin Kimmie. She's drop-dead gorgeous and you feel like wall-paper around her, hehe. But she's a sweety and probably doesn't even realize it, hehe.
Listening to Shinedown and it's awesome!

Becke Davis said...

Oh, I know what you mean. I have two younger and much skinnier sisters -- my husband jokingly (he'd better be joking) calls them the "sporty models." And while my daughter is absolutely gorgeous (I'm not prejudiced one bit), she has had to grow up with three blonde bombshells for cousins, which would suck if they weren't real sweeties!

I loved that Charlie McNally's career is based on talent, even though her looks obviously come into the picture. I can't imagine what the pressure must be like to women whose careers depend on looking young, when there's no way to hold back the years. Well, other than going under the knife (*squee*).

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buona sera, Bellas! Hey, Becke, great column! Book looks great and, as you can guess, I want to know more about...the professor! Are you just dying for the next book in the series? And, um, do you think Charlie and the prof are gonna hook up? (It's true, Bellas: I sing only one song, but at least I get all the notes right. :) )

Becke Davis said...

I had to quote this from Hank's blog:

"Here's what most people don't know: As a result of a summer job at the Dairy Queen, I can make an ice cream cone with a curl on the top. I was vice-president of the Midwest chapter of the National Beatles Fan Club, and figured I would one day marry George. Or Paul. Or John. When I was ten, my career ambition was to be Nancy Drew."

I was going to marry Paul McCartney -- at least, that was the plan until he met Linda Eastman. I was SUCH a Beatle fan. Probably why I married a dark-haired, brown-eyed British bass player. Hmmmmm.

I also thought I was Nancy Drew, or at least a budding Agatha Christie. (I wish!) And while I never worked at Dairy Queen, I DID work at Jake's Pizza -- let me tell you, I can cut a mean Christmas tree pizza!

So, Hank, tell us more about your road to TV -- you have what a lot of us picture as a dream job!

Tonya Kappes said...

I had to laugh out loud when I read she still googles her ex-husband. I love Hank's voice-she relates to so many women out there with her characters.
Besides being a aspiring writer...hmph!-my paying job is a child's play therapist. At forty, I have begun to wonder how much more getting around on the floor, how many more tea parties, hide and go seek, wheels on the bus, etc...I am going to be up for and at what age am I going to have to take motrin or tylenol on a daily basis to combat the aches that are coming far and close between!!

Becke Davis said...

Tonya - Didn't that grab you about the ex-husband-Googling? I mean, seriously, who DOESN'T Google people (i.e. guys) they used to know?

Oh, Tonya - forty. *sigh* I remember forty. At 57, I've reached the point where, when I drop something, I try to find other things to do while I'm down there.

I asked my dr. about it. I said, "My joints get really stiff. Do you think I have arthritis?"

She asked, "When you wake up in the morning, are you really stiff when you first get up, but then after about a half hour you're fine?"

I said, "Yes, that's it, exactly! So it's arthritis?"

She said, "No, sorry, kid. It just means you're getting old."


Gabriella Edwards said...

Hey Everyone,

Tonya, girlfriend, everthing you described in your day job sounds like an analogy for great sex play! <:::> Becke knows I write romance so my mind always goes there.

And it wasn't until after 40 that I knew the wonder of fabulous sex. Always good--it just got better. More confidence? More practice? Sexual peak?

BTW Becke, the book sounds great and made my TBB list. You know I don't usually read RS, but this sounds like it's full of action and intrigue with a heroine I'd love to follow.

Becke Davis said...

What cracks me up, Rosie, is that I never really thought about PRIME TIME being a book about an "older heroine," because, um, she's a lot younger than I am!

But, yes, it's true - there is indeed life after forty, and even fifty and (hopefully) beyond sixty and seventy, too!

I like mysteries that I can't solve in the first chapter, and this one definitely had me guessing right to the end.

amy kennedy said...

Princess, I never feel like I BETTER be wearing make-up, I just feel more confidant, but I have some friends...cough (Michelle) who don't need make-up. Can you say, perfect skin? She can.

Michelle, do you think the prof wears jackets with elbow pads? Ahhh.

Tonya, I had my last child at 40, he's 10 now, but I'm thinkin' he's keeping me young.

Rosie? LOflippinL.

Becke, umm, British bass

Becke Davis said...

Ooh, Amy -- corduroy jacket with leather-covered buttons and suede elbows. And glasses. And needs a shave and a trim. Okay, I have to drop everything and go read Face Time RIGHT NOW!

Becke Davis said...

BTW, I was just making that up -- that's how I'm picturing Josh Gelston. As Charlie says in the book, like Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. Ahhhhhhh.

Jessa Slade said...

Becke! How cool to find you here! With such a sweeet job!

Excellent timing on the review. I was just talking with some ladies at work a couple weeks ago about how they felt romance hasn't kept up with them. This'll be a great title to give them.

pjpuppymom said...

Great review, Becke! I think I'm going to like this one. Welcome to your new gig here at RBTB!

Becke Davis said...

Jessa - what fun to see you here!

Michelle blogged at Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago about virginal young heroines. While I enjoy reading about well-written heroines of any age, I found it refreshing to find a book that addressed some of the issues over-forties have to face!

Becke Davis said...

PJ - Thanks for the welcome! I knew this would be a fun place to hang out!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh! SOOooo late to this wonderful party! I was in NYC at Thrillerfest (!) on a rotten cranky laptop..and just saw this wonderful review and chat.

Hello my dear Bellas, and molto mille grazie..yes, indeeed, Charlie McNally and I do share some characteristics. (When my husband talks about Charlie, the refers to "you"--as in "when "You solve the murder" and "when you are held at gunpoint"..I have have to say, oh honey, no no, it's ficton. And he just smiles.

Yes, it's very difficult to look camera-ready every minute of the day. Yes, I still love it. Wiring myself with hidden cameras, going undercover, gonig after the bad guys--what better job could there be?

And in Face Time...well, lets put it this way. Someone gets killed, someone gets pregnant, someone gets plastic surgery, and someone finds the new love of her life. Who do you think that is? ANd my editor told me she cried at the end. When was the last time you cried after reading a murder mystery?

Oh, so sorry to mave missed you this week..who's going to RWA? Find me and menton you're a Bella--and I'll have a special surprise for you.

Michelle is in charge of my seminar on Saturday--and here' a secret: for Bellas only: I'll be giving away 2 manuscript critiques! Come introduce yourself ,and tell us you're a Bella...and you're entered!

Not going? Sigh. We'll dearly miss you. Email through my website for a special gift.

Becke--you and I will have to chat about the Beatles. And thank you, endlessly, for your wonderful words about Prime Time!

Becke Davis said...

I am soooo excited to meet you at National, Hank!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Me too. Dinner? Lunch? Sit with me at the RITAs? Let's set a time...

Becke Davis said...

It was wonderful to meet you, Hank!