Duets 93 by Wendy Etherington
(Harlequin, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-44159-2
These Duets tales are a fun loving romp. Written by the same author, the stories flow together and complement each other.

Can’t Help Falling in Love highlights the romance of Skyler Kimball and Jack Tesson. Skyler is the daughter of a deceased fire chief, and sister to two firemen (one the current chief) and a police officer in the small town of Baxter, Georgia. There is tradition in the family, and heroism is one of those traditions. Skyler has vowed to find a safe, staid accountant-type so she can avoid seeing the one she loves in danger. She watched her father die trying to save someone and she worries about her brothers all the time.

Skyler is known as the reckless one, but that is just a ploy by her brothers to be over-protective of their little sister. So who does Skyler fall for but a new paramedic/fireman named Jack Tesson. Jack is from the wrong side of the tracks in St. Francis Parish, Cajun country Louisiana. He has worked his way into this position on the well-respected Baxter fire department with hopes of getting into Atlanta and their more intensive action.

Skyler and Jack immediately accept their attraction, but refuse to see it for what it is. Jack is certain he is not good enough for Skyler and she is certain she doesn’t want to love a hero-type. Throw in some fun scenes with her brothers, a fourth of July festival, some great sex and sexual tension, a secret lingerie shop, a quirky friend, a few misunderstandings and a chance for the two to see each other often and you have one heck of a good romantic tale.

The second story, Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love, focuses on the quirky friend, Monica O’Malley, and one of Skyler’s brothers, Ben. Ben is the fire chief. He is a serious man who has accepted responsibility from the time he was 15 and his father died. He grew up and became fire chief. He takes his responsibilities seriously and rarely shows anyone his fun-loving side…if it is even there anymore.

Monica is his polar opposite. Monica is a sincere, smart business woman, who has her own interior design shop. She puts in a bid to make over the fire station and wins. Her reputation, which is not really deserved, is that of a flamboyant, wild woman. The reality is that Monica loves to have fun, but can be responsible and is discriminating in her relationships. Her remarkable body and flare for dressing add to her steamy reputation.

When Ben meets Monica, sparks fly and keep on flying. Neither can believe the other is interested since they are so different. They independently decide to try to be what the other seems to want. Monica turns conservative, wearing long skirts, ironing her curly hair, and trying to act respectable at all times.

Ben makes the funniest transformation, trying to be “wild” without ruining his reputation. The most hilarious scene involves a little too much to drink, skinny dipping in cold March temperatures in an unheated pool and the fire chief starting a fire by throwing his clothes onto a hot grill. I chuckled at their antics and laughed out loud at times.

All four characters are well developed. The other brothers and friends are good supporting cast members, with plenty of quirks and anecdotes to keep you smiling. The Elvis references in the title come from a passionate fan in the guise of the Mayor. Although this character could have been made to look the buffoon, he is allowed to develop so that he becomes a small town eccentric, but one you can imagine being elected and respected. Baxter seems like a nice place to live…this adds depth and reality to the story.

This is one of those books in which the sexual tension keeps you turning the pages, while the development and depth of the characters enhances it beyond just a case of raging hormones. Etherington does a nice job complementing the first story with the second, carrying on good continuity and giving the reader glimpses of Skyler and Jack as their love deepens.

If you have never read a Duet before, this may be a good one to pick up. If you are already familiar with the concept, this one will not disappoint.

--Shirley Lyons

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