The Non-Commissioned Baby

Marine Under the Mistletoe
by Maureen Child
(Silh. Desire #1258, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76258-5
Marine Under the Mistletoe offers a heroine with an unusual occupation, but other than that, the rest of the plot is standard, and the hero skirts the edges of jerkdom. This one didn't work for me.

Marine Sergeant Davis Garvey pulls into Santini's Garage to get his beloved Mustang fixed. All the guys at Camp Pendleton have raved about the great service at Santini's, so he's stunned when the mechanic turns out to be Marie Santini, daughter of the late owner. At first, Davis is skeptical. A woman mechanic? But hey, she seems to know her stuff, so Davis reluctantly agrees to let her work on his car. And she's pretty, too. Make that very pretty.

Marie Santini is used to the overly macho attitude of the Marines at the base. Normally she doesn't let it get to her, but this Garvey fellow seems to be looking her over in a way she's not used to. Men don't pay attention to Marie. They ogle her sisters, Gina and Angela, but they don't ask Marie out to lunch or hang around and look at her admiringly. She's plain old Marie. What's this guy up to?

Marie, of course, is gorgeous but doesn't know it. Apparently all the Marines on the base are blind, too, because when Davis asks Marie out, we find out that she doesn't date -- nobody is interested in her. She has her sisters, her nephew, and her widowed mother. The Santinis are a tight family. That's better than a date any day. Davis, for his part, feels lust for Marie but doesn't want to like her. No, a fast, hot affair is more his style.

Davis had to be one of the more irritating heroes I've come across recently. He's the typical "lousy childhood, can't love anyone" type of guy who doesn't need a woman as much as he needs a good smack in the head to bring him to his senses. He wants to get to know Marie, but mainly to get in her bed. Marie isn't much better. Here's a guy who gives every indication of being interested in her, and time and time again she falls into the "what could he see in me, nobody could be interested in me" trap. Her sisters are irritating, too. "Marie, do something with yourself. Marie, fix yourself up, for heaven's sake." Only Mama Santini seems to have any sense.

After the initial setup, everything in this book is so utterly predictable that it's like reading on autopilot. Even Davis' and Marie's sexual encounter has a completely foreseeable conclusion. And the hint that Gina, the younger sister, may be in line for her own romance didn't evoke the slightest degree of interest. She's such a spoiled princess that it's a story I'd go out of my way to avoid. Too bad widowed Mama Santini can't find a nice guy over at Camp Pendleton.

--Cathy Sova

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