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Bedtime for Bonsai by Elaine Fox
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13)  ISBN978-006-147464-4
Anytime I want to start a review with “I liked this book but…” I know I am in trouble. Bedtime for Bonsai is another one of those tales with a quirky hero and/or heroine and a pet that almost seems human at times.  Despite my initial feeling of having read this tale before, there are some intriguing twists.  The twists both keep the story interesting and cause some moments of discomfort.  All in all, this tale is a real mixed bag.

Penelope Porter is a divorced woman whose biological clock is slowly running down.  She is anxious for children but was burned by her ex-husband, Glen, who kept saying he wanted kids, but really didn’t and then went off and got his girlfriend-turned-new-wife pregnant.  Penelope is jealous and hates how he treated her. Yet here she is, an independent woman with her own shop where she sells pens (yes that is not a misspelling) and she is considering trying to get Glen back now that he is divorced again.  After all, according to her logic, they are older and with one child already, he must be ready to have another, this time with her.

Glen, meanwhile, thinks that she is still hot and their sex life was good.  However he has already had a vasectomy, and he doesn’t want Penelope to know until after he has scored with her at least once.

Dylan Mersey enters the picture.  He is an ex-con, which is one of the twists.  He was jailed for dealing drugs and has just gotten out of prison. Dylan is determined to start fresh, so he moves to Fredericksburg, Virginia from Baltimore where he grew up into a life of crime. He gets a grant to start his own gallery of his sculptures and pottery.  His shop is right across from Penelope’s shop, and they meet one day while Dylan is jogging by the dog park where Penelope and her friends hang out.  (Several of these friends are married now and have had their own stories.) Their next meeting occurs when Dylan is innocently trying to get into his shop and realizes he needs to use a phone.  Penelope, thinking that he is breaking in, calls the police. She discovers his past but realizes how attractive he really is.

Penelope has a new puppy, some type of small terrier, who she wants to name Mr. Darcy after Pride and Prejudice.  Dylan and Penelope meet again when the dog escapes from Penelope and is discovered by Dylan in his shop.  Dylan names the dog Bonsai due to his habits…guess which name sticks.

At this meeting, Dylan and Penelope realize they are attracted to each other.  But Dylan has low self-esteem around Penelope as he thinks she is pretty high society, someone who likes opera and goes to the country club.  Penelope, meanwhile, is concerned about the fact that Dylan is a bad boy, but thinks he is too cute to totally dismiss.

The basic story is in their relationship, which is complicated by their concerns.  The main conflict occurs when Dylan is confronted with his past and feels forced to participate in an unsavory deal that could send him back to prison if he is caught.  Penelope and Bonsai get caught up in this and Dylan has to go into protector mode. His background, his mother and who he really is are all revealed as the story moved on.

First, I liked the fact that Dylan was not a perfect hero.  But then the author tries to redeem him with a convoluted story about how he went to prison to protect his mother from going, so he is really a good guy who may have done some petty things but really is not a criminal.  Then Dylan would act like a good hero…being romantic and hot without really trying and tying Penelope up in knots and I would like him again.  Then Penelope would act a little dopey, like trying to reason out how she can be attracted to Dylan when she should be dating Glen, and some of my frustrations would come out. This was followed by a well-paced and actually well-thought-out climax.  As I stated earlier, this was a real hit or miss story, depending on which scene was being developed.

Fans of the series may like this book a whole lot, since we really get to experience the rest of the dog park gang, one of whom has a secondary storyline with her new beau. For others like me, Bedtime for Bonsai was really just a contemporary romance written along the current trend, where quirks and odd twists are the norm and parts of the plot work while others do not. 

--Shirley Lyons

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