Little Miss Innocent? by Lori Foster
(Silh. Desire #1200, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76200-3
****
From the information I read on the back blurb of Little Miss Innocent?, I knew I had a choice to make. If I took this book too seriously, then I was pretty certain that I wouldn't enjoy it. Here we've got a sex therapist who's a virgin. Some oxymorons are too bizarre to take seriously. Imagine the lifeguard who's never swum a stroke, the pilot who's never been in a plane, the librarian who's never read a book. You get the picture. Knowing that Lori Foster has the ability to deliver a satisfying story, I decided to just let the story carry me along and see how I felt when it was over. Now I'm glad that I chose to look at this story from a more carefree, whimsical angle.

Dr. Daniel Sawyers, while far from a puritanical prude, disapproves heartily of his younger sister's friend, Lace McGee. The very name conjures up black satin and midnight rendezvouses. Lace is a sex therapist who's authored sex books and has a radio talk show. Daniel may be in lust with Lace, but he does a good job of concealing it. Lace is of the opinion that he doesn't respect her. His scorn irritates her so that she goes out of her way to provoke him and delights in finding ways to shock him.

As Daniel is finishing his shift in the emergency room, he sees Lace walk in. He's so bothered by this sexy siren that seeing her causes his palms to sweat and his glasses to fog. When he finally notices that she's injured, he rushes to help her. Seems that an undertrained puppy, chasing a cat, saw Lace bending over to protect the cat and bit Lace's butt instead of the cat. Quite a bite it is. One hundred stitches later, Lace agrees to allow Daniel to help her for a few days.

This enforced closeness allows both of them, but more so Daniel, to reassess their view of each other. Daniel discovers that Lace's mother, her role model regarding male-female relationships, was always looking for a new man to give her happiness and to end her loneliness. Mom has been such a poor example that Lace doesn't even believe in love. After Daniel's mother died, he saw his father fall apart. That left a young Daniel to care for his younger siblings. So Daniel is also gun-shy, afraid that he'll follow his dad's example of all-consuming love. Their pasts color and distort their perceptions of themselves and each other.

Daniel, at odds with himself over his desire for Lace and distaste at her life style, devises a plan to salvage his ego. He's going to pretend to be a dud in the bedroom, and then he'll get Lace to tutor him. What he doesn't know is that Lace's experience only goes so far.

What caused me to look at this story from a whimsical vantage point lies in the strength of Lori Foster's writing. From the beginning scene where Lace wanders in, bloody from the dog bite, and Daniel drops what he's doing to rush to her side, I could feel the subdued affection that these two felt for each other. They snip and snarl, but that underlying tenderness is always there. The dialogue is snappy, and the sexual tension . . . well, words fail me there, but it was extraordinary. It would seem that Lori Foster may be the touchstone for sensuality among romance writers. When caring and passion are combined with a writer's skill, the results are explosive.

One thing I don't understand is why this story occurs around Christmas, even though it has a February publishing date. Oh, well, the vagaries of publishing. The gift-giving scene is particularly poignant and touching. Daniel's brother Max and his sister Annie add charm to the story, too.

Despite the capriciousness of the plot line, I enjoyed this story. Do yourself a favor. Suspend disbelief as you sit down to read Little Miss Innocent?. You'll be glad you did.

--Linda Mowery


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