The Last Highlander

Love Potion #9

The Moonstone

Once Upon a Kiss

Third Time Lucky

Double Trouble by Claire Cross
(Jove, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-13178-4
I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Double Trouble ever since I read and reviewed its predecessor Third Time Lucky last year. Needless to say by the five heart rating, I wasn't disappointed. Claire Cross has outdone herself this time with a contemporary romance that has it all: wit, humor, sexual tension, an intriguing storyline, and a heart-touching romance to boot.

Spunky, independent Maralys O'Reilly prefers a life devoid of emotional attachments and has done her best these past 38 years to make that a reality: she lives alone, runs her own 1 person business, asks nothing of anyone, doesn't want anyone or anything to become dependent on her, and does her best to come across as a flippant bad-girl to keep people and their accompanying emotions at bay. Maralys's doted over twin sister Marcia, on the other hand, is everything Maralys is not: conservative, securely married to a successful lawyer, highly esteemed in the community, and the mother to two young boys. So imagine everyone's surprise when Marcia up and runs off one day without so much as a word of good-bye to anyone, not even to her sons.

James Coxwell was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth only to wake up at the age of forty-two and have the spoon ripped away from him. He's lost his job, his home, a huge chunk of his money, and finally his wife. Left alone to raise his two young sons and pick up the pieces of his shattered life, James finds his thoughts turning toward his soon-to-be-ex-sister-in-law Maralys who, contrary to expectations, steps in to help him out when he needs it the most. It doesn't take James long at all to realize he never wants to be without her; the problem is getting Maralys to come down off her no-emotional-ties highhorse long enough to realize that she feels the same way about him.

Okay, I know what some of you must be thinking at this point: James falls in love with his sister-in-law? And with his wife's twin no less? Yuck! But before you dismiss Double Trouble from your TBR pile on that basis alone, let me assure you of this: by the time all is said and done, the fact that Maralys and James' ex-wife Marcia are twin sisters won't bother you in the slightest. There are plot twists and plot turns me here. You really won't care.

When I reviewed Third Time Lucky, which tells the story of James' sister Phillipa, I rated it five hearts because it was not only engaging, but because it was also different from any romance I'd ever read. Double Trouble has all the same winning ingredients that made its predecessor stand out in my mind - a quirky, humorous dialogue told in the first person, a down to earth heroine who's easy to relate to, a hero you want to take home and keep for yourself - but Double Trouble has improved upon Third Time Lucky with two additional ingredients: emotional poignancy and unpredictable plot twists.

In terms of emotions, Double Trouble is running high with them, yet never gets bogged down. James and Maralys have a lot of issues to deal with and a lot of emotion stemming from those issues, but they handle everything in a way that keeps the book upbeat and keeps the reader cheerily turning the pages. If you're anything like me and run away as fast and as furiously as you can from romances that leave you feeling sunken and depressed, then I guarantee you'll enjoy Double Trouble. James and Maralys provide you with a lot of healthy emotion, but they do so in a manner that neatly avoids the harrowing melodrama cliché many romances fall into.

Double Trouble is an excellent book to read when you're in the mood for a quirky romp, not when you're in the mood for an action-packed suspense or a heart-wrenching piece of drama. Yes, Double Trouble has plenty of emotion in it, but for the most part it's a fun, funny, Sex In The City kind of tale that should be read when you're in a fun, funny, Sex In The City kind of mood.

That pearl of wisdom duly dispensed (for whatever it's worth!), Double Trouble is engaging, endearing, and a lot of fun to boot. It's the best book I've read all year.

--Tina Engler

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