Take My Breath Away

Close to Perfect by Tina Donahue
(Brava, $14.00, R) ISBN 0-7582-1318-2
I enjoy bodyguard stories, especially ones with unconventional twists, such as having the woman be the bodyguard. Tina Donahue’s Close to Perfect uses just such a twist. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t live up to its title.

Wealthy Josh Wyatt needs help. After a photographer takes a picture of him swimming naked in his private pool, he’s been barraged with gifts from women wanting to be with him. As if that weren’t enough, women wait outside his office and home, hoping to ambush him. Josh is offended by the invasion of privacy and frustrated by the way he’s being hounded. Josh’s lawyer has another worry, and he arranges for Josh to hire a bodyguard.

Enter Tess Franklin, former cop and now a partner in her father’s security company, Privacy Dynamics. She wants the job as Josh’s bodyguard partly because of the fee and partly because of the publicity it will bring to the firm. For these reasons, she takes the job even when Josh asks her to pose as his girlfriend in public.

If there’s one word to describe Close to Perfect, that word would be tedious. First, there’s Tess’s overprotective family, who subject Josh to a scrutiny that seems out of proportion for the situation. At one point I wondered if Tess were really a teenager —otherwise, there was no explanation for how protective her family was.

Then, there’s the minimal conflict. Josh and Tess fall in like almost instantly. It’s not surprising that they would be immediately attracted to each other. What is surprising is that both are convinced that the attraction is more than merely physical. All after one kiss.

In the first part of the book, the main problem seems to be that they can’t find time to be together. When the new conflict finally appears, it could be dealt with pretty easily. By this time, like has blossomed into love, but Tess and Josh don’t believe the other person loves them. Josh finally broaches the subject, which results in a misunderstanding. What these two really need is simply to talk to each other.

And that brings up another issue: a lack of conversation between the two. Much of the getting-to-know-you occurs off-stage, which makes it difficult to see their love develop.

The story does have some amusing moments, such as the scenes where Josh sees Tess’s outfits and wonders where she could be keeping the gun. The scene where he asks her if she’s holding the gun in place with a garter is delightful. The way Tess confronts a woman waiting outside Josh’s home is also fun. But the few smiles are not enough to save the story.

I don’t expect to find perfection in every novel. But with its bland characters, Close to Perfect doesn’t come close.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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