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Friday, September 01, 2006

**½ Daddy by Design? by Cheryl Anne Porter
**** Her Perfect Wife by Kate Thomas. Contemporary romance.

I got this book 4 years ago when I went to a booksigning at my local Barnes & Noble to see Kathleen O'Reilly. It was horribly quiet, and as there were 3 other authors there, I bought a book from each and chatted with them a little. Kate Thomas was one of them. I don't remember her at all, but I'm unaccountably pleased that her story was the one I liked.

I'm not sure if all the Duets had themes, but this one was marriages of convenience.
  • Daddy by Design.

    Up until about 1/3 of the way through the story, this was a 4-star read. It starts out with race car mechanic Trey Cooper hesitating about getting in an elevator with a very pregnant woman. Cinda Cavanaugh convinces him that in spite of the fact that she's due at any moment, he'll be safe... and then they get stuck in the elevator. And she goes into labor. It's realistic and funny and just cute as heck up through the baby's birth (in the hospital).

    Then it just loses steam. When they separate, Cinda tells Trey that since he saved her life, to call her if he ever needs the favor returned.

    Which he finally does months later when a ex-girlfriend who's married to a mobster, but separated from him is planning on getting Trey back at their high school reunion, and Trey thinks that if he shows up with a wife and child, the ex will back off.

    There's a whole thread that goes on too long about Trey's mother not believing them when they say they're not really married, and how come there are two ex-military nurses in this story? And since when are military nurses' lives like boot camp in Private Benjamin?

    But the story really lost me when Cinda argues with herself, repeating things we already know, including the entire plot of the book so far... for 8 freaking pages. Argh. Not only is she nonsensically going back and forth on her decision, but she's walking back and forth as well. I got dizzy as well as annoyed.

    I have to say, though, if I'd been the editor, I'd have bought it on the strength of the first two chapters, which were fabulous.

  • Her Perfect Wife.

    The premise of this one is even more far-fetched. Stockbroker Jack Halloran is horribly envious of a female co-worker who's quitting her job to get married. He's getting burned out on the fast pace and long hours, and wants to quit and go out on his own, but can't give up his medical insurance, and can't afford the time off to prepare for the certified financial planner exam. So he half-seriously comes up with a plan to marry a woman and be her "wife"--keeping house, taking care of all the little details--in exchange for room & board & being put on her medical insurance.

    When his best friend Sherry meets with her client, Dr. Melinda Burke, an extremely overworked pediatric surgery resident (that was redundant, wasn't it?), she decides to get the two together.

    It's very entertaining watching Jack get smacked down by his assumptions that housework would be a breeze, mostly because it manages to avoid the clichés, and Jack manages to avoid being TSTL about it.

    The romance between the two develops over time, something else I appreciated, since so many romance novels take place in a matter of days.

    Once you buy the premise, it's a wonderful story. Until the very end, when ****spoiler****Mel decides to give up her lifelong dream of being a pediatric surgeon and settle for a less stressful & time-consuming (?) well-baby practice. WTF? Residency doesn't last forever; it's a lifelong dream, and she's good at it. **** My advice is to just pretend the book ends 6 pages sooner than it does.

I feel vaguely guilty about the demise of Harlequin's Duets line, with their 2-in-1 volumes of romantic comedy. I love romantic comedy, but I only ever bought 2 or 3 of their books--this one, one with the aforementioned Kathleen O'Reilly in it, and maybe one other. Not that it would have made a difference in their sales if I'd bought every single one, but still, I feel kind of bad.


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