Love Letters

Help Wanted by Diana Garcia
(Encanto, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7860-1138-6
Help Wanted opens with, well, a “help wanted” ad. Rosa Osario needs a “housewife” for the summer to care for her two boys, ages eight and six. Someone who can cook, drive the boys to swim team, etc. Few have applied for the job, and nobody has been acceptable. Until Brian Torres shows up on her doorstep.

Brian is a freelance writer who is in between royalty checks. He’s an experienced parent, having been the sole provider for his three-year-old daughter since the death of his wife two years ago. He can cook, he’s used to rowdy boys, and against her better judgment, Rosa finds herself hiring him. It’s only for the summer, right? Surely she can keep her mind off his charming looks.

Brian soon turns Rosa’s house into a well-ordered haven. Beto, Alex, and little Gracie bond quickly, and when Brian makes his interest in Rosa known and asks her out, she finds herself weakening. Rosa is gun-shy after a bad marriage and an ex who dumped her for a blonde, leaving his sons behind in disinterest. If she gets close to Brian, is she letting herself in for more heartache?

The conflict here is about as spare as it gets. He wants her, she’s afraid of involvement, he decides to convince her. This rather simplistic plot might have fallen flat, but Help Wanted is tightly focused on the two lead characters, and as the reader gets to know them, their unfolding romance feels just right. Brian is presented as a good-natured sweetie with sex appeal to spare, and Rosa is a thirty-something single mom who isn’t exactly in the first blush of youth, but is nevertheless capable of making Brian drool. What fun. And the kids are realistic without being overly precious.

There were a couple of loose ends in the story that needed more explaining to flesh out the characters. Rosa lives in an expensive home complete with pool and a private, gated entrance, but we’re never told what she does for a living or how she affords this - she attends meetings and has a “boss”, but that’s all we know. This left a question mark in my mind. And what exactly Brian does as a “freelance writer” isn’t detailed, either.

Also, the Encanto line might benefit from some tighter copy editing. Lately it seems that ridiculous statements pop up in these books that could be easily eliminated. Here it was Rosa’s driveway, which is stated as being “tilted at a seventy degree angle”. Maybe if she lives on Mount Everest, but since the setting is Tucson, that’s just plain silly and should have been cut. The entire scene where it was featured lost some of its impact because of this.

For a moderately spicy romance with two eminently likable characters, Help Wanted will fill the bill just fine. You’ll enjoy Rosa and Brian. Spend an afternoon with them and you’ll probably be smiling when you’re finished.

--Cathy Sova

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