The Secretary and the Millionaire
by Leann Banks
(Silh.Desire 1208, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76208-9
****
Your unofficial official TRR Fortune's Children reviewer reporting in on the latest installment of this ongoing saga! (I have taken on this onerous responsibility since I believe I am the only reviewer who has read every FC book since the first one appeared three years ago. Is that devotion, or is that devotion?)

I am happy to report that Leann Banks has not let the cause down. The Secretary and the Millionaire is a most enjoyable addition to this determined attempt to insure that everyone in the Fortune family has his happily ever after.

Amanda Corbain has been Jack Fortune's administrative assistant for four years. She is efficient, effective, and basically invisible to her handsome boss. She is also secretly in love with the man. But Jack doesn't believe in love. His unhappy marriage to the grasping Sheila, which ended in a nasty divorce, has cured him of any belief in love and marriage.

Sheila's enjoyment of the status of Fortune ex-wife was cut short by a fatal car crash. Her death leaves Jack with custody of his three-year-old daughter Lilly, a child he hardly knew because of her mother's vindictive insistence on keeping father and daughter apart. The demands of single parenthood are tough on a high-powered executive like Jack. When Lilly's nanny gets sick, a desperate Jack turns to Amanda to step into the breach.

Amanda, who raised her younger brother and sisters after their parents' deaths, proves to be a natural with Lilly. For the first time, the little girl begins to come out of the shell she retreated into after her mother's death. So Jack asks Amanda to switch jobs for a while, at least until Lilly becomes more accustomed to him and starts to smile again.

So Amanda moves into Jack's house and, for the first time, he sees behind her professional facade to the real woman. And he likes what he sees. For her part, Amanda finds living with the man she loves a temptation and a joy. As he starts to see her for the first time, her own feelings deepen. But she wants Jack to love her, not choose her because it is the "right" thing to do, the sensible solution to his family problems.

When I saw the preview for The Secretary and the Millionaire, I thought it was going to be a "marriage of convenience" story. But Banks' take on the relationship between Amanda and Jack is not at all what I expected. Rather it is a story of a man discovering the real woman Amanda is and overcoming his past to accept and return the love she offers.

Obviously, this is a traditional plot, but Banks handles it well. For all her unrequited love for Jack, Amanda is a strong character with lots of good qualities. Jack's surprised reaction to his daughter's new "nanny," his resistance to this attraction, and his growing feelings for Amanda are well developed. There is actually less family interference (read Kate Fortune) in their romance than in most of the series books.

Leann Banks is clearly a master of the category genre and her contribution to the Fortune's Children series maintains the good quality of this long running soap opera. Fans of the series will undoubtedly want to discover how Jack Fortune meets his fate. But readers who have not been following the fortunes of the Fortunes should still enjoy The Secretary and the Millionaire.

--Jean Mason


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