Flirting With Danger

 
Rules of Engagement by Jamie Denton
(Harl. Tempt.#793, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25893-3
****
The Temptation line is advertised as Harlequin's boldest, most sensuous stories, ones that are fast-paced with a high level of sexual tension and a strong conflict. Jamie Denton gets a check mark for meeting . . . and exceeding . . . each of their goals. Rules of Engagement incorporates believable characters involved in a contemporary conflict, one that almost seems hopelessly insurmountable. Thank goodness for that mandatory HEA.

Attorney Jill Cassidy glances up from her desk and simply stares in fascination at the most gorgeous man she's ever seen. Mr. Wonderful needs legal assistance for one of his employees, and Jill, being a smart woman, decides to offer her services. There's a catch, though. In return for her help, she's going to ask Mr. Wonderful to be her pretend fiancÚ for a week. To her, it's a mutually beneficial solution to both their problems.

Morgan Price is the quintessential Mr. Nice Guy. After listening to Jill's offer, he accepts against his better judgement. Morgan knows that he's interested in this desirable, lively woman and also knows that she's a career woman with a capital C. His mother had the same compulsive desire to succeed and consequently ignored her family while she focused on her career. Morgan wants a woman who won't concentrate exclusively on her career, something that he sees Jill already guilty of doing.

Jill's need for a faux fiancÚ is simple, one we've experienced before: family expectations. Jill's youngest sister Carly is getting married. That'll leave Jill as the only unmarried daughter, a situation that her matchmaking friends and relatives try to correct every time she comes home to visit. Over the last year Jill has led them to believe that she's seeing somebody serious, and now that she's coming home for Carly's wedding, she knows she's got to deliver the goods in the form of a fiancÚ.

What sets Rules of Engagement apart is the intelligence at its core. Morgan and Jill are attracted, but each wants different things out of life. Jill, after a broken engagement to a manipulative man, knows that she wants nothing to do with a committed relationship at this stage in her life. She loves her law career and knows that her time isn't her own while she's establishing a place in her law firm.

Morgan already sees the writing on the wall when Jill forgets a date or two because she's engrossed in her work. He's fascinated with Jill but does know that she's the antithesis of what he really wants and needs. When Jill lets him know that she's interested in a physical relationship, but doesn't want a commitment, he's torn. Testosterone vs. Common Sense

Visiting with Jill's close-knit, caring family and enjoying her hometown, Morgan yearns for the same kind of loving family, the kind he never had. Jamie Denton does an outstanding job of making us aware of both Jill's and Morgan's POV, to empathize with and to care for each of these people. While the ending doesn't come as a surprise, it has a complete, fleshed-out, realistic feel. I am so impressed with the intelligence, realism and humor that permeate this plot, attributes that take this book far beyond the frequent lightweight category romance.

The secondary story line surrounding Carly and her pre-wedding jitters takes on a life of its own. Carly gets her own spin-off story in HT 797, Breaking the Rules. The excerpt is tantalizing, making me hope that we'll be treated to yet another intelligent, realistic and humorous story.

Finding a book this satisfying makes me glad that I read romances. Vicarious pleasure doesn't get a whole lot better than this.

--Linda Mowery


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