Next to Nothing

Out of Order by Barbara Dunlop
(Flipside, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-44196-7
Flipside advertises itself as “falling in love one laugh at a time”. I have read quite a few of these, and generally found them to be funny and romantic. Out of Order is pure fun, with a delightful heroine, a dreamy hero and a story that made me laugh.

A more down-on-your-luck heroine could not be found, and still be someone a reader can like and relate to. Shelby Jacobs is intelligent but doesn’t always make the best decisions. She was dating her boss, only to discover he had a major gambling habit. She moved to Chicago to live with her college roommate and got a job in an arcade game room. She finds herself arrested with her boss for gun running. Of course, she is totally innocent but cannot prove it. At the precinct, she runs into her girlfriend’s fiancé’s law partner and convinces him to help her. Dallas Williams can’t believe his eyes. A beautiful woman with legs that won’t quit has conned him into convincing the cops they don’t have a case. Then he takes Shelby to the dry cleaners to get her dress, only to find himself in a nightclub with Shelby and her girlfriend. Lust hits him between the eyes, an unexpected inconvenience when he has a big case to work on. Dallas prides himself on his conservative actions, and these things are totally out of character for him.

Shelby isn’t done with him yet. Her girlfriend, Allison, convinces her fiancé, Greg, to hire Shelby as his new receptionist. Of course, Dallas is less than happy to see her. But he is attracted. Their interplay is fun and at times, downright funny. Dunlop uses sarcasm followed by sexual innuendo and heat to show their attraction. The plotline delves into a case that Dallas is working on, a mix-up when Shelby thinks she is putting sexy pictures of Allison into Greg’s briefcase, only to discover she put them in Dallas’, and an attempt by Greg’s opposing counsel to pull Shelby in to spy on Greg. The resulting scenarios are fun, just short of silly, yet believable and the interactions between Shelby and Dallas are sultry.

But these two also have some depth. Dallas is serious and conservative because he is trying to NOT be his dad, a defense lawyer who tries to save the world. Shelby seems a little lost, because she just hasn’t found her niche yet, and has little self esteem when it comes to men. Greg and Allison add perspective to the story.

The best part of the tale is the pacing, the sexual buildup and the snappy dialogue. Here is just a quick preview – and it doesn’t do it justice:

Dallas: “You were a cocktail waitress until two weeks ago?”
Shelby: “Right.”
Dallas: “Allison told Greg you were experienced.”
Shelby: “I am. He just never asked what the experience was in.”

And a little further on:

S: “Anybody ever tell you you’re kind of boring?”
D: “Anybody ever tell you you’re kind of nosy?”
S: “Anybody ever tell you you’re kind of sexy?...Sorry, that kind of popped out.”
D: “ Well, pop it back in.”

Dunlop writes these types of dialogues with a flair that is rare. Yet, it is just part of the story, not the entire story. While it is the fun and the flirting that is heartwarming, it is the story around it that makes it a good book. I recommend Out of Order because of that whole package.

--Shirley Lyons

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