The Dating Game

Her Frog Prince

The Bachelor’s Dare

The Virgin's Proposal

Simply the Best
by Shirley Jump
(Zebra, $5.99, PG)  ISBN 978-14201-0036-5
Alex Kenner and Mack Douglas have been best friends since first grade. Both have been in relationships that have been less than perfect, and they know all each other’s secrets. But suddenly it seems like they are having feelings that are more than friendship and both are worried that if they act on them, they will lose not just their hearts but their best friend.  Simply the Best has a familiar plot with a familiar ending and it is so familiar it didn’t ever really catch my interest.

Alex is the product of a father who left and a mother who died when Alex was just a child. She was raised by her grandmother, who is getting along in years. The grandmother worries that she will pass away leaving Alex alone with no family, so she gives Alex a house that is rundown and needs to be completely renovated. It turns out to be the house that Alex lived in for the first five years of her life and she is forced to remember the past as well as try to build a future. To complicate matters, Alex has just ended a relationship with a married man and she is pregnant.  To further complicate matters, she realizes she is in love with Mack – a man she considers her best friend.

Mack is a man with many things going right – his own business, a strong sense of self and a love of life – and many things going wrong – his parents have separated and his dad is almost a recluse, he is divorced and has sworn off further marriages and he is in love with his best friend, but is so fearful of losing her. Mack is a caretaker – one of those people who want to take care of everyone. He is also watching his friends Roy and Renee go through tough times in their marriage, which just anchors him into his position.

The story follows Alex as she renovates her house, with Mack’s help since he is in the construction business and won’t let her do the heavy work. It also follows her attempts to contact a famous reclusive author who wrote a story about a teenager just like Alex. This book was one of those books that helped Alex get through her stormy teenage years and Alex is determined to interview her – using her story as a way to become a feature writer and get out of the fashion department at the local paper.

This story never generated any genuine interest. I felt like I was reading something I had read before. Mack and Alex argued and bantered their way through their tale, and it was hard figuring out what made them connect as best friends for all these years. I found Renee and Roy’s story very distracting. Who were these people and why should I care that Renee is just steps away from having an affair? Mack’s parents’ story generated a similar feeling. The storyline was just introduced and other than the fact it gave Mack something to think about besides his feelings for Alex, I didn’t care that his dad was depressed or that his mother had had a change of heart and was considering returning home.

Alex is one of those heroines who teeter between strong independent woman and whiny “woe-is-me, my life is such a mess” woman. Mack is a hero who is tender, kind and generic… he and I never connected. Their sexual tension was moderate, and they only really had one episode of hot lovemaking. The fact that Alex was pregnant with another man’s child also distracted from the tale. I could never really buy that her ex was that cold – he just dismissed her, saying he would give her money – and that Mack could be so accepting. 

I found myself putting this book down easily and reluctantly picking it up again.With only twenty pages to go, I had to push myself to read about the resolution just so I could finish the review.  It's not a good sign when the reader doesn't care about their happy ending.

Simply the Best is one of those tales that has been written before and adds nothing to the equation. 

--Shirley Lyons

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