It Must Be Love

Simply Irresistible

True Confessions

Truly Madly Yours

Lola Carlyle Reveals All
by Rachel Gibson
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-380-81439-0
Iíve had some bad experiences with romantic comedy. The last time a book with a cartoon cover made its way into my shipment of review books, I walked around dazed and shell-shocked for a good month afterwards. I cannot abide stupid heroines. Eccentric is one thing, moronic is another entirely. I donít find stupid heroines funny, which means the romantic comedy I have tried in the past has left me banging my head against the wall just to make sure that all my brain cells didnít die during the course of the 300 plus pages.

Therefore, I was naturally more than a little skeptical when I drew the straw for Gibsonís latest. To make matters worse, the heroine is a former supermodel. Head poised close to a wall, I began to read. Enter the hero. I read some more. I wipe the drool from the corner of my mouth. I leave my boyfriend in the capable hands of the NCAA tournament, close the bedroom door, and donít come for air until several hours later.

Lola Carlyle is a former underwear model in hiding. Her ex-fiancť has published some revealing photographs on his own website, allowing anyone with the money and inclination to see Lola like the public has never seen her before. Sheís mortified. When legal avenues fail to rectify the problem, Lola decides she needs to stay under wraps for a while, and hightails it to the tropics.

Max Zamora is a government agent who narrowly escapes death after a drug bust goes terribly wrong. Badly beaten and completely disoriented, he commandeers a yacht, only to find Lola and her sissy rat dog on board. Things deteriorate further, when a confrontation between the two leaves the yacht disabled. They are at the mercy of the high seas, forced to share close quarters, and could have a seriously ticked off drug lord hot on their trail. It is not exactly love at first sight. Yet, the couple soon find themselves not only understanding and relating to each other, but also developing enough chemistry to blow up a lab.

I wasnít so sure that I was going to like Lola. Iíll admit the whole former model thing worried me, and she does something pretty stupid by the close of the first chapter. Then something happens. Instead of writing a one-dimensional, ditzy heroine for the sake of comedy, Gibson gives Lola depth. She grows as a character, and as her layers are revealed, Lola is shown as not just another pretty face - but rather a smart woman who knows how to survive.

As for Max? I was holding the book in one hand, and fanning myself in the other. Iíve never been much of an alpha-lover, but Max has me thinking about converting. Heís tough, rough around the edges, and might has well have sex tattooed on his forehead. Some readers may find him a bit of a turn off in the beginning, as he doesnít exactly put his best foot forward, but Gibson soon begins peeling away his layers as well. Like Lola, he is a survivor, and just like Lola, he has paid a high price on his quest for perfection.

While Lola Carlyle Reveals All pretty much screams beach book, the climax of the story offers some meaty dialogue and surprising depth. No fluffy, easy ending for this couple - they have issues to resolve, and the author doesnít lose sight of them.

A hunky alpha hero, a complex heroine, a nice stranded theme, a meaty ending, and lest I forget to mention the hot love scenes, make Gibsonís latest the biggest pleasant surprise I have had this year. Cartoon covers are starting to look better already.

--Wendy Crutcher

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