This Old Heart by Holly Fuhrmann
(Precious Gems, $1.79, PG) Available only at Wal-Mart
***
This Old Heart is a fairly typical romance featuring a cop hero who is anything but handy, and a heroine in a non-traditional job. While this story sometimes fumbles a bit on the way to the happy-ever-after ending, overall it's an enjoyable enough read.

Police officer Tom Lewis is happy enough in his job in the small town of Berkley, Pennsylvania, but something seems to be missing from his life. He hopes that the purchase of a lakeside cabin will help. Only problem is, it's a "handyman special" and Tom can barely negotiate the business end of a hammer.

After a first renovation effort ends with a sagging ceiling and no support wall, Tom calls in a pro on the advice of his partner. "B.J. Henley" turns out to be Bobbi Jo, a licensed builder who quickly demonstrates to Tom that she can, indeed, handle the job.

Bobbi Jo is adept with tools, but a complete wreck when it comes to exhibiting her femininity. Tom manages to see past it, though. They make their way toward a tenuous romance, fighting past ghosts along the way.

I thought Tom's character was a hoot. The tough cop who thinks he can handle anything and ends up with a house practically falling down around his ears was a great premise. The author did a fine job of making him endearing without turning him into a clown. His transformation from arrogant sexist to a man desperately in love was a fun journey.

Bobbi was harder for me to warm up to. In fact, I don't think I ever really did. When we meet her, she's brash and has a huge chip on her shoulder, which makes it hard to like her much. As the story progresses, her actions become more and more cartoonish. Example: in preparation for a big date with Tom, she has her father and two other guys waxing her legs for her because she can't figure it out. That was a bit much. I half expected them to try using duct tape next.

Because Bobbi is presented as such a boyish character, it's hard to see what Tom finds attractive in her at first sight. There's little sexual chemistry between these two; we're told that Tom finds her beautiful, etc. but it doesn't come through in their actions very well.

Bottom line: This Old Heart is a decent romance with a few too many qualities lacking to make it sparkle.

--Cathy Sova


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