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When I Think of You
by Liz Ireland
(Zebra, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7116-7
***
The silly cover and title notwithstanding, When I Think of You was a pleasant surprise, an amusing contemporary romance with a bit of Chick Lit flavoring to give it spice. While the lack of communication between the hero and heroine grew tiresome at times, the interesting secondary plots and characters kept me turning the pages.

Using the classic best-friends-fall-in-love scenario, Ireland places her protagonists at adjoining desks at the Portland Times. Davis Smith has been in love with Celia Snowden ever since he moved from Nebraska to Oregon and spied her working in the cubicle next door. But Celia has a preference for dashing foreign men and considers Davis simply a great pal. He’s the perfect default date, a shoulder to cry on when she has been dumped, and an invaluable companion at Trailblazers games. Even though Celia is growing weary of being an “oink” (One Income, No Kids), she just doesn’t consider Davis as prospective leading man material.

Celia’s self-centered best friend Natalie has taken a dramatic step to end her single status by agreeing to marry a man from Scotland whom she’s e-mailed but never met. Celia reluctantly agrees to pick up Natalie’s fiancé at the airport, and fortunately, Davis is there to rescue her when Angus emerges from the plane falling-down drunk. Come to think of it, Davis is always there when Celia needs him, and he’s getting tired of waiting for Celia to come to her senses. At the urging of his apartment mate, Davis starts working out, buying new clothes and updating his hairstyle. Suddenly other women start to notice him, and Celia realizes that Davis is no longer at her beck and call. But the scales don’t fully fall from her eyes until Davis takes drastic action that prove that “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

I enjoyed reading the sections of the book written from Davis’ point of view. His sense of humor and generous spirit make up for the fact that he is a bit of a sap for letting Celia walk all over him. Celia is an engaging heroine with a quirky sense of humor, and I appreciated the fact that she focused on both her career and her love life. However, I wanted to shake some sense into her when she took advantage of her buddy Davis for the nth time without considering his feelings or needs.

When Celia finally starts to wake up, the duo spend too much time in frustrating advance/retreat patterns until they finally get their timing right in one measly love scene during the last few pages of the book. Yet despite this thin plot, I enjoyed the novel primarily because of the humorous secondary characters and several intertwining subplots that feature Davis’ dense roommate, Celia’s best friend (who thinks nothing of calling Celia in the middle of the night because she can’t decide on the right wedding reception favors), as well as a parrot who refuses to speak until he has the right inspiration. By the end of the book, they’ve all come together like a well-constructed Seinfeld episode.

I may have picked up When I Think of You because of the Jennifer Crusie front-cover endorsement, but I kept reading because of Liz Ireland’s own entertaining style. She’s definitely an author to watch.

--Susan Scribner


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