Bride of Fortune

The Doctor Wore Spurs

Expecting His Child

His Majesty, M.D.

The Secretary &
the Millionaire

Some Girls Do

Underfoot

When She's Bad

 
Footloose by Leanne Banks em>
(HQN, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-77128-2
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You know that carefree feeling you get with your first cocktail? That happy buzz that comes with no nasty hangovers and no major regrets the morning after? Well, that’s exactly how I felt after reading Leanne Bank’s Footloose.

When Amelia Parker’s long-time fiancé dumps her for another woman, she decides it’s time to live it up. She’s spent the past few years dressing for him, eating for him, having fun for him. So much so she has never really done what she wants. Which is why when Jack O’Connell spots her, she’s sipping her first Hurricane at a tiki bar in the Florida Keys and making a list of all the wild, daring things she’s going to do. He volunteers to help her compile it, test it and more. Not surprisingly given the attraction he feels for her, most of his suggestions involve adding “naked” to the activities she’s contemplating.

Under the influence of the festive and laidback Florida resort, Jack and Amelia quickly fall into a lighthearted friendship tinged with a strong dose of requited lust. Although they like each other, neither expect very much from their off-season romance. Jack doesn’t do commitment, and Amelia is determined to spend more time being footloose and fancy free. They would both happily go back to their merry ways in Chicago and Atlanta, were it not for Jack’s dirty little secret.

As it turns out, Jack is a venture capitalist who’s just fronted money for Bellagio shoes. The illegitimate son of Dario Bellagio, he’s also an unacknowledged part of the family-run business where Amelia works. Now, Lillian, Dario’s widow and Bellagio’s Grande Dame, wants to make up for having so ruthlessly pushed Jack out of his father’s life. She offers him public recognition and a seat on the company board. Jack accepts the latter but holds back on the former. He thereby opens himself up to the hostility, wariness and angry accusations of Bellagio’s loyal workers. When Amelia returns to Atlanta and learns her holiday fling is the very man who is shaking up corporate headquarters, she too suspects she has been had.

Fortunately, Amelia is much too sensible to let an itsy-bitsy, little secret blow up into the Big Misunderstanding. She may not be ready to make their relationship public, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a friend in need. As Amelia and Jack continue to get to know each other and reciprocate acts of kindness, they discover to our pleasure and delight that they share that rare thing: a perfect balance between sizzling sex, old-fashioned friendship and toe-tingling romance.

This is not to say that Jack and Amelia don’t have their issues. Jack is laboring with the shadow of his illegitimacy while Amelia is struggling to pull off her Little Miss Sunshine act after an apparently sure thing has thrown her over. Neither let their complexes drag the book down, and they’re always one step ahead of the other when it comes to emotional support. Jack accompanies Amelia to a family wedding, and she goes all the way to Chicago to hold vigil with him while he waits to hear whether a beloved relative will pull through a health scare. After scenes like these, how could I help closing the book feeling not just fuzzy and warm, but also completely certain that this is one romance couple who really will get a happy-ever-after?

I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t admit to a few minor irritations: Jack’s connections with the entertainment and sports world don’t ring completely true; the ending is a little rushed; and Amelia’s encounter with her old fiancé seems a tad forced. But all in all, Footloose is a delightful read. Who needs Florida tiki bars and Hurricanes when just reliving the book gives me all the buzz I need!

--Mary Benn


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