About 10 years ago, I was a member of Mango book club, which specialised in chick-lit. After putting a wrong number in on the order form, I received a trio of books by an author I’d never heard of, Janet Evanovich. Rather than pay the extortionate postage fee to send them back (that’s how they get you!!) I decided to keep them and read them. The books were ‘One for the Money’, Two for the Dough’ and ‘Three to Get Deadly’. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between me and the main protagonist, Stephanie Plum and the other two sides of her love triangle, Joe Morelli and Carlos Ricardo Manoso, aka Ranger.
Janet Evanovich has released her 21st in this series and I feel like I know Stephanie like a best friend. I’ve read each book at least 5 times, the earlier books, more so. I eagerly await the yearly release of the next book so I can find out whose turn it is to be flavour of the month – the stable, bad-guy-turned-good-cop, Morelli or elusive, sexy-but-unobtainable (except for mind blowing sex and rescue situations) Ranger.
I share Stephanie’s dilemma to an extent. Given her situation as a lucky, rather than successful bounty hunter, she finds herself in need of both men to bail her out of trouble (pardon the pun) on a professional level, depending on whether she needs legal assistance from cop, Morelli, or illegal assistance from the master of breaking and entering, Ranger. On the occasions where Stephanie is in real danger, the two men come together in an unspoken alliance and save the life of the woman they both love and are driven mad by in equal measure! Morelli takes care of the arrests, while Ranger permanently rids the world of bad guys who want to kill his “entertainment”. Yet Stephanie is told by Morelli that she should stay away from Ranger and told by Ranger that while Morelli is a good man, if he gets half a chance he’ll take what is his i.e Stephanie. No wonder she is confused!
By rights. Stephanie should, and often does, feel like a total failure, as she lives by the FTA (Failure to Appear) cheques she receives when, by some miracle, she manages to bag one. She then spends it on some “p.o.s.” car that is likely to be blown up within the week. Her relationship with her insurance broker was probably broken beyond repair by book 5!! If there is a gooey substance in the vicinity, Stephanie’s hair will end up in it and she finds herself the enemy of some very nasty characters. Yet these two Adonis-like men love her to varying degrees, so she must have some redeeming traits. Indeed, she is a loyal friend, daughter and Grandaughter and mother to Rex the hamster. She may struggle with the concept of commitment but she does love Morelli and Ranger and would be by their side as and when they need her.
Ranger spends a small fortune keeping Stephanie safe with tracked Porsches (which tend to be stolen or blown up) and often a security detail who are often in fear of their own lives in Stephanie’s presence, partly because she attracts trouble and partly because if anything were to happen to her, Ranger would kill them! He classes her as a line item in his accounts under entertainment! He sure knows how to flatter a girl! He just isn’t relationship material but Stephanie secretly hopes that might change one day.
Stephanie is complemented by her friends and family, who are used to the fact that Stephanie always has either Morelli or Ranger in tow. Her mother is on the verge of becoming an ironaholic as she irons her frustrations away whilst eyeing up the liquor as she laments about Stephanie’s ability to attract trouble. Stephanie’s father doesn’t speak often, mainly communicating by grunts and dirty looks, but is usually on point when he ventures a rare opinion. However, the two lynchpins in Stephanie’s life are her larger than life friend and colleague, Lula and her eccentric, hilarious Grandma Mazur. Lula, a former ‘ho, could be blamed for a lot of Stephanie’s bad luck. As the loose cannon of the two, if a bust is going to go pear-shaped, it’s likely that Lula’s verbal hunger for violence is to blame, usually because of her total lack of shooting ability and habit of running away when the bravado escapes her, leaving Stephanie to pick up the pieces. Hilariously over-confident, Lula’s determination to be Stephanie’s right hand girl often hinders rather than help. Fearful of the cops, she will abandon Stephanie in the blink of an eye, taking a moment to drool over “Officer Hottie” and she is usually Stephanie’s Ranger radar, swooning as soon as he comes into sight. And God forbid anyone who calls her fat – she will literally come down on them like a ton of bricks with her signature move, sitting on them! Her massive personality is the ying to Stephanie’s understated yang.
Grandma Mazur is, without exception, my favourite character in the Stephanie Plum series. The chapters that she is in are the laugh-out-loud chapters. Whether she is shooting a chicken up it’s bottom at the dinner table when she tries Stephanie’s gun for size or when she is trying to lift the lid on the coffins at her social hub, the funeral home, Grandma Mazur is the epitome of an old woman who thinks she is a teenager. She also has grand designs on Ranger, and is the only person that Ranger fears, claiming that she looks at him like he’s lunch!
Getting back to the dilemma of Morelli vs Ranger, if I had to choose, I would probably go for Morelli. Not too elusive, incredibly sexy, solid but with enough of a hot temper to keep things interesting. Plus he wants to marry Stephanie sometimes and have babies with her, whereas Ranger has denounced any chance of a relationship. If Morelli and Stephanie ever get on the same page at the same time, it would be a beautiful ending but then I would miss my yearly fix of bounty hunter japes and the will they, won’t they roller coaster ride that is Stephanie’s love life! Ranger still has time to convince me that he’s the one, though. I hope there will be many more numbers to come and in the meantime, roll on book 22!!!