Unwrapping Mr. Wright
by Michele Dunaway
(Harl. American #1044, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-75048-X
***
Lauren Brown is in trouble. Double trouble.

Tired of being just a “pal,” she tries to seduce her friendly neighbor and co-worker, Jeff Wright, but ends up kissing his twin brother, Justin, with whom she also works – and argues – constantly. He’s overbearing, arrogant, demanding, rude … and as sexy as hell. She can’t stop thinking about him, but she really wants Jeff. Or does she?

What’s a girl to do? And which Wright is Mr. Right?

… OK, OK, so you’ve heard it all before. The idea of having to choose between two brothers (or co-workers or friends) isn’t new; Lauren’s dilemma has been used time and time again in the romance genre. In fact, most of author Michelle Dunaway’s latest Harlequin release is old material (holiday, siblings, workplace, misunderstanding, decision) that’s been restructured and repackaged. She succeeds where others have failed, however, because she makes us not only want to be the heroine, but believe in the possibility. It could happen to us; we could be “Unwrapping Mr. Wright” this Christmas.

Dunaway’s setting and characters are accessible and realistic, perfectly suited to the HAR series: “Upbeat, lively romances about the pursuit of love in the backyards, big cities, and wide-open spaces of America.” For example, Lauren lives - and works – in St. Louis, not glamorous Hollywood or cosmopolitan New York. She’s a PR rep for Wright Solutions, a company run by the twins’ older brother. Like most women, she considers herself average … and is described as such.

Her fingers fished in her purse for the mirror she knew she had but rarely used. Moving it at various angles, she took stock of herself. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Boring makeup. Practical business attire except for the red sweater. All told, nothing to write home about. The woman she could only see in bits and pieces in the looking glass was not a girl for a guy to get excited about.

Lauren is motivated and self-sufficient, but, like so many of us, she’s also insecure. Burned by love in the past, she tries to be content just watching Monday night football and drinking beer with friend Jeff. Readers can relate to Dunaway’s heroine, because she’s … well, normal. Creative and hard-working, she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself in the boardroom, but second-guesses herself when it comes to relationships. We like getting to know her, because she reminds us of ourselves, our friends, our family. She’s a composite of the females we know and love; she’s the American everywoman.

It’s seems more than a bit appropriate, then, that her story is one we’ve heard before. Tired of just waiting for her Prince Charming, Lauren decides to go after what she wants. Or thinks she wants. (Haven’t we all been there?) She spends a day at the beauty salon, then shows up at Jeff’s apartment, unaware that he’s out of town and Justin is staying there instead. They kiss, and sparks fly … until she realizes her mistake. Ooops.

After her failed attempt at seduction, she’s more than a bit embarrassed. Justin, curious about this new and sexy side of Lauren, volunteers to help her capture Jeff’s attention – after all, who knows a man better than his twin? Besides, it gives him a reason to spend time with her, and get to know her outside the office environment. Dunaway’s skill with characters is evident again as readers – and Lauren – slowly get to know the real man behind the business suit. He’s a hardened office administrator, constantly worrying about the financial bottom line, but also a caring nurse who brings her orange juice and buys Christmas decorations to make her feel better when she gets the flu. He becomes a three-dimensional hero, willing to sacrifice his own happiness for hers.

She wasn’t a game, a bet. She was Lauren. He loved her.
But her heart belonged to someone else. To his twin brother, Jeff.
He heard the noise of a car engine as Lauren’s car jumped to life, and said a quick prayer that she’d be safe on the roads
. And then, Justin Wright sat down on a kitchen chair, and for the first time in a long time, he let himself cry.

While Dunaway loses points for predictability and some poor sentence structure, her characters convince us to become cheerleaders. We know there will be an HEA, and we can’t think of two more deserving people than Lauren and Justin … even if it does take them a while to realize what’s in their hearts. We live vicariously through Lauren – as we do with other romance novel heroines -- and it’s nice to know that, this time at least, it could actually happen to us.

--Melissa Amy


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