Confessions of a Serial Dater
by Michelle Cunnah
(Avon, $12.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-056037-1
****
Despite its title, Confessions of a Serial Dater is not really about dating. In fact, Rosie spends most of the novel without a date. More than halfway through, she is so desperate, she hires an escort to attend a friend's wedding. There, she finds herself seated at a table where, of the four men, the only man she hasn't slept with is her paid escort.

Not that Rosie is a heartbreaking slut. On the contrary, in all three cases, she was the wronged party. She caught her college boyfriend Harry in a compromising position with her cousin Elaine. Her most recent ex-boyfriend Jonathon dumped her after she refused his boss's lascivious advances at an important charity event. As for the third man, Dr. Luke Benton, she fell for him when she met him at the same event. He rescued her from social embarrassment and a cripplingly tight pair of shoes. She rewarded him (and herself) with an unforgettable kiss before they both disappeared into the night.

Rosie and Luke nevertheless meet again at various social functions and eventually fall into bed. She wakes up the next morning, believing she has finally struck gold. But she is wrong: Luke is, alas, married. No wonder she finds it just a little bit awkward to sit at that dinner table with her old boyfriends and their new girlfriends and wives. But serial dater or not, the eternally optimistic Rosie does not give up hope and eventually gets her man.

Rosie's search for happiness is echoed in her friends' similar endeavors. Some of these secondary characters are recognizable types, albeit with their own distinctive twist: the commitment-shy wise-cracker is in a semi-permanent relationship; the clueless but sweet homebody is an heiress; the gay male friend finds the perfect man. Others are much more unique to this novel. I found Cousin Elaine a bit too wicked in her attempts to upstage everyone and humiliate Rosie in particular, but I did like the quirky grandmother. At eighty-something, she is involved in a love triangle with another octogenarian and a garden-gnome-snatching sixty-year-old toy boy. Then there is Rosie's widowed mother whose tightly-reined grief is something I've seen in women I know.

A smart and talented businesswoman who somehow bungles affairs of the heart, Rosie is also a recognizable woman of today. Aside from her mismanaged love-life, her most endearing anti-heroic flaw must be her far too big and much too wide feet, which prevent her from falling prey to Chick Lit's favorite fetish. Though she owns the inevitable pair or two of Jimmy Choos, she doesn't exactly enjoy wearing them. Thank goodness the hero is not a Prince Charming who holds up Rosie to the test of the shoe.

Good-looking, intelligent and very kind, Luke wins a lot of points for helping out with Rosie's depressed mother and for modestly dishing out spaghetti at a dinner party. His initial adulterous behavior might turn off some readers, but it bothered me more because of what it does to the plot. Too much of the romantic conflict is fueled by Rosie's refusal to let Luke explain and apologize. Even if her moral outrage is justified, the drawn-out Big Misunderstanding annoyed me. When clarification finally came, it wasn't convincing enough to make up for my irritation.

I was, however, completely taken by Rosie's self-deprecating, witty and resonant lamentations. Confessions of a Serial Dater may not offer exactly what the title advertises, but I certainly don't regret reading it.

--Mary Benn


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