has also reviewed:

Simply Irresistible

Truly Madly Yours by Rachel Gibson
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-80121-3
Truly Madly Yours is Rachel Gibson's second book, the first being Simply Irresistible. Do two books with quirky, likable characters, witty dialog, well-developed secondary characters, fast-paced plots and delicious sexual tension constitute a trend, a pattern? Lordy, I hope so. Rachel Gibson's style of writing appeals to me, and my wish for her is a long, illustrious publishing career. Writers of her caliber are always a welcome addition. That electric sexual tension doesn't hurt, either.

Returning to Truly, Idaho, for the first time in ten years, hairdresser Delaney Shaw is there for the reading of her stepfather's will. Living under Henry Shaw's thumb had been too confining and the man too controlling, so she'd left her pampered upbringing and has been on her own for those ten years. She remembered that his love had always been conditional; he'd always had a narrow focus and had expected her to conform. She's not planning on being in town for long.

Nick Allegrezza, Henry Shaw's unacknowledged bastard son, is also present for the reading of the will. Nick, seeing at a young age the futility of securing Henry's affection, was ambivalent in his feelings for Delaney. The young Nick alternately blamed her for stealing his father's affection or was mesmerized by the little blonde princess. As Nick grew older, the more he alternately lusted after Delaney or scorned her. Classic behavior of unrequited love, I'd say.

The terms of Henry's will spin both of them on their axis. Delaney will inherit close to three million dollars if she remains in Truly for one year. Nick will inherit two mega-valuable pieces of real estate if he refrains from any sexual relationship with Delaney for one year. Okay, all Delaney's got to do is stay in a town she despises, try to ignore her mother-knows-best and remember all the reasons she needs to stay away from Nick. And all Nick's got to do is to keep his pants zipped around Delaney. Sounds simple, right? In the hands of a less talented author, this might have turned into a simplistic story line, but Rachel Gibson gives her humor free reign and delights us time after time.

Nick and Delaney share a history that's complicated. When Delaney was eighteen, her step father had found her and Nick in a compromising situation. It's no wonder that their reunion is a bit rocky. It mirrors their past. Delaney has always considered herself the underdog when dealing with Nick. She doesn't remember a time when she's gotten the best of him, but those ten years away from him have bolstered her confidence. She teases him about his tattoo:

"Did you get that tattoo in prison?" she asked, pointing to the wreath of thorns circling his bare biceps. The new Delaney stuck her nose in the air and pressed her luck. "What were you in the slammer for, exposing yourself in public?"

"Strangling a smart-ass redhead . . . it was worth it."

Staying in Truly for a year is going to be a maddening experience. Delaney's teenage nemesis, the one who stole her boyfriend and also beat her in the vote for Homecoming Queen, owns a rival beauty shop. Some of the funniest situations center around Delaney wanting to outdo Helen and her Hair Hut. Delaney grimaces over giving blue-haired ladies finger waves and critiques most of the hair in town, with some wacky observations on what's needed to repair Helen's handiwork.

While Delaney and Nick are aware of each other from the get-go, their relationship does take a long time to develop. At first they're not even sure they like each other. The sexual awareness is always there, but with them squelching it at every turn. Both even date other people while they circle around the other.

When Delaney, briefly dating a younger man, realizes why she prefers them a bit older and more seasoned, I cracked up at her reasoning:

"Matching furniture became as important as a killer stereo and somewhere along the way, the phrase 'party till you puke' lost its appeal."

Truly Madly Yours is a funny yet poignant look at two people who do get it right the second time around. I was delighted to be a vicarious part of their lives. What delights me more is that Rachel Gibson seems to have hit upon a formula for success: high humor, fun sex and delightful characters.

--Linda Mowery

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