Breaking the Rules

Flirting With Danger

Rules of Engagment

Holly Furhmann's reviews:

This Old Heart

Duets 43 by Jamie Denton & Holly Jacobs
(Harlequin Duets 43, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-*44109-6
Duets 43, a January 2001 release, may be hard to find. If you have to do some serious searching to find it, I think you'll consider it time well spent when you get to last page. Just remember that the longer you wait, the more the price may go up on this book. Whoever said that the best things in life are free never tried to buy OOP, much-coveted romance books.

Making Mr. Right, Jamie Denton's contribution, is a delight. If I wasn't grinning at her characters' antics, I was rereading passages to appreciate her prose. This is a gender reversal of Pygmalion, with the heroine, Jaycee Richmond, playing the role of Professor Higgins. Instead of Eliza the flower seller, imagine Simon Hawthorne as Dolittle.

Accountant Simon Hawthorne is about to lose his job. Yes, he's a great accountant, but he's a nerd and concentrates on his job to the exclusion of all else. He doesn't socialize well with the clients and knows that if he wants to keep his job, he's gotta change.

He decides that Jaycee Richmond's family business, Better Images, will help him. Jaycee, who at first thinks that Simon is a copier repairman, decides that she'll help Simon on the Q.T. She's fed up with her brothers' chauvinistic attitude toward women in the work place and thinks that if she can transform Simon, then his change will be her pièce de résistance and will cause her brothers to rethink their outdated ideas. She's really tired of being treated as a glorified secretary, especially since she's got an advanced degree.

The transformation theme takes on light and lively tones. Here's how Jaycee views Simon, who teases that his full name of Simon Theodore is like being named after the chipmunks. ”He really was a fount of potential. Her own very special lump of clay, and it was up to her to make him shine like the most brilliant of gems.”

Jaycee's reluctance to become emotionally and intimately involved with Simon is the conflict in the story. She does have good cause to be wary. She wants her brothers to view her as credible and by giving into her urges, especially the lusty one, she'll be proving her brothers right. She'll be proof that women do let their emotions overrule their business sense.

Holly Jacobs, who also writes as Holly Furhmann, has given us a story with an intriguing, refreshing title, I Waxed My Legs for This?As the story progresses, this takes on different meanings.

Carrington Rose Delany or Carrie to her friends, has been secretly in love with Jack Templeton since high school. Thinking that Jack is suffering from a love affair gone bad and might be working himself to death, Carrie dreams up a scheme that will give Jack a much-needed vacation. The title comes into play when Carrie, knowing that she's going to talk Jack into taking an island vacation, decides to wax her legs. Pulling off the strips hurts so much that she talks Jack into doing it for her. It takes a good friend to do something like that.

At their island retreat, all Carrie wants to do is to let Jack unwind, but he has other plans. He's not suffering from a broken heart, regardless of what Carrie thinks. Their stay on the island gives Jack a chance to concentrate on Carrie. Everything is going according to Hoyle, until a major cliché comes into play, The Big Misunderstanding. Carrie sees Jack hugging his old girl friend and thinks that they must be reconciling. In an adolescent-minded display of immaturity, she leaves.

This is one story that would have benefitted from a bit of communication. Here's my insert.
Carrie: Jack, do you still love Sandy?
Jack: No.
Carrie: But I saw you hugging her. It seems to me that you still love her.
Jack: No. Let me explain.
At this point, Carrie will either believe Jack or decide that she can't trust him.

So here's my question. Can't a story go on with the trust in place? Obviously not here. Why can't the conflict be resolved simply, letting us have an early peek and several chapters of HEA? Why must it denigrate into predictability, something that would have been cured if only Carrie had guts enough to talk to Jack.

And at one point the story literally falls apart with silliness. Carrie, who's a dress designer, gets Jack to try on one of her special orders. When she notices that the dress isn't hanging straight, she redoes the hem. Come on, folks! Jack's lack of feminine attributes would make the dress hang differently, anyway.

Luckily Jamie Denton's story was first in this Duets book. It sets the tone and gives us a warm, witty story about the transformation of an adorably clumsy guy who becomes a drop-dead gorgeous specimen. And while filled with some special moments, I found Holly Jacobs' story to be more predictable, more clichéd and with more silly scenes than truly humorous ones.

I'm glad I read both stories, but Jamie Denton's almost blew me away with its freshness. It alone is worth the hunt. For some, Holly Jacobs' story will be an added bonus, the icing on the cake.

--Linda Mowery

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