Her Man Friday
My Man Pendleton

The Sheriff & the
Imposter Bride

Society Bride

That Boss of Mine
by Elizabeth Bevarly
(Silh. Desire 1231, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76231-3
What else could go wrong in Wheeler Rush's life? Inexplicably, his once-thriving commercial design company begins losing money. He's had to lay off his staff because he can't afford to pay them, so he's running what's left of his business by himself. He has moved out of his old brick Victorian home in one of Louisville's poshest neighborhoods and into a tiny, nondescript apartment in a not-so-posh neighborhood to save money.

And to top everything off, his creative juices are running southward, along with his clients. When we meet Wheeler at the opening of Elizabeth Bevarly's That Boss of Mine, large, scary-looking repo men are removing his teakwood art deco office furniture from his office. Wheeler's once charmed life seems jinxed.

Then Audrey Finnegan walks -- or should I say stumbles -- into his life.

Audrey reminds me of a ditzy Geena Davis. Bad luck follows her like a persistent black fly: she can't keep a job, a boyfriend, or even both feet (literally) on the ground. The temp firm she works for has sent her to Rush Commercial Designs to do secretarial work, a job she's ill-qualified to handle. Nevertheless, after a memorable first meeting with her new boss, Wheeler Rush, she's hired to stay on.

During her first two weeks on the job, she manages to destroy all the office equipment, file designs for a dating service under H for "hook up", and contribute dozens of coffee stains to the office carpets. Wheeler knows he should ask the temp service to send someone else over, but he genuinely likes having Audrey's sunny disposition in his presence, as well as her curvy figure, clad in revealing, strangely monochromatic outfits that include matching Band-Aids.

Within weeks, things are looking up at Rush Commercial Design. Wheeler gets some lucrative new business (with Audrey's help) and old clients reappear (again, with Audrey's help). Best of all, inspiration returns to Wheeler and he's designing again. Could it be Audrey?

But Wheeler is too dense to notice much more than Audrey's clumsiness, apparent incompetence, and cute, yet distracting figure, so he hands her her walking papers when his business takes off. Within weeks, however, his luck turns bad again. Suddenly, Wheeler has one of those a-ha moments: Audrey is obviously his good luck charm, because his business thrived when she was around. He finds out where she's working (washing dogs at a grooming parlor -- a-ha! Geena Davis!) and begs her to come back to Rush Commercial Designs.

I won't tell you what happens next in That Boss of Mine, except to say that Wheeler finds out he's wrong, all wrong about Audrey. Elizabeth Bevarly is one of my favorite category authors, and she didn't disappoint with her twenty-fifth published novel and Silhouette's Man of the Month title for August. Not many authors have enough talent to write a charming love story set against a backdrop of madcap humor, but Bevarly does it with ease over and over again.

I should warn readers that some of the humor in That Boss of Mine tends toward the physical, but there are also lots of laugh-out-loud moments that evolve from the author's skill at simply telling a good story. Bevarly's writing style is completely natural, and none of the funny moments seem forced - indeed, much of the humor springs from the characters' unique, sometimes quirky ways of seeing the world.

I love a good heroine. In fact, I love a good heroine better than a good hero because I think they're harder to create. Audrey Finnegan, I am happy to report, though not the brightest nor most graceful character to trip onto the pages of a category romance, is loveable, charming, and someone you'd share your last Doritos with when the chips are down. She's quirky and smart in her own way. When she was happy, I felt happy for her. When she was in the dregs of hell, I was down there with her. I could see why her boss fell for her. Literally and figuratively.

On that note, there were moments when I wanted to reach out and slap Wheeler across the cheek just to see some color. Next to the full-spectrumed Audrey, his character seemed washed out to me, and I wondered what exactly Audrey saw in him. Maybe the "opposites attract" or "straight man" thing. I don't know. But when I closed this book, I felt that Wheeler was the one who lucked out, not Audrey.

That Boss of Mine is a fast, enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who thinks they've had a bad day at the office. There are these two characters you should meetů.

--Diana Burrell

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