Something About Cecily by Karen Kendall
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-81852-3
According to Mary, the knowledgeable owner of my wonderful local romance bookstore, the feedback she’s been getting on debut author Karen Kendall’s Something About Cecily has been generally good. So, maybe it’s just me, but my reaction was decidedly mixed.

Initially, Cecily Scatterton comes across as a complete ditz. She has no job, a slew of credit cards charged to the max, her car is in danger of being repossessed and she’s soon to be evicted from her apartment. With no food in the house for either herself or her cat Barney, Cecily returns a dress without tags to Neiman Marcus, but is only offered store credit. (This is only page one and I knew this girl was dim. Everyone knows you return the dress to Nordstrom, they’ll give you cash for anything.)

Anyway, she takes the store credit to the gourmet foods department and exchanges it for a gift basket. At least she and Barney will have one good meal of imported gourmet items.

Relaxing at home after the feast, the doorbell rings and Cecily takes off like a shot. She knows it’s the UPS man, with whom she’s on a first name basis, delivering another package. She lives for opening packages.

Unfortunately, on the rush to open the door, she trips on a stack of store catalogues, falls on her face and smashes her nose. By the time Cecily makes it to the emergency room, she’s stoned on a combination of eight Midols mixed with the bottle of champagne from the gourmet basket. Naturally, she has no insurance and no hope of paying her hospital bill, when she’s rescued by our hero, Chas Buchanan.

Chas, a very successful financial planner and investment consultant, is in the emergency room because he’s slammed his fingers in a door. He’s the methodical type of guy that does nothing on impulse, but for some unfathomable reason, he jumps right in and offers to pay Cecily’s hospital bill. When it’s apparent Cecily has no job to pay him back, he offers her a temporary job filling in for his vacationing secretary.

Cecily agrees and when she is evicted from her apartment, she “borrows” the key to Chas’ plush offices and sneaks in after hours to sleep.

(This is where I always hope that if anything bad ever happens to me, I’ll morph into a romance heroine. There’s always that kindly someone willing to offer her a job or place to stay. I can’t remember ever reading of a heroine forced to stay in a homeless shelter.)

Although Cecily is grateful for Chas’ help, their relationship is rocky from the start. Cecily refers to Chas as “a self-righteous jerk” and Chas concludes Cecily is “a walking mess” and they’re both correct. But there’s no question that it’s lust at first sight.

There’s no involved plot or great mystery here, just two unlikely people thrown together, immediately attracted to one another and uncertain of how to make it all work. And this is certainly a mis-matched pair. It’s the recent death of her brother, her only relative, that sent Cecily into a consumer tailspin. The high she gets from shopping is the only thing that makes her feel alive.

And Chas, who Cecily refers to as “the Human Abacus,” is a man who takes pride in the fact that he saves over $600. a year by clipping store coupons from the newspaper. Certainly not the perfect choice for a spendaholic. Chas spends much of the book in a state of puzzled confusion wondering how he got mixed up with Cecily.

Author Karen Kendall has a snappy, blunt style of writing that will either appeal or repel, but it’s a fresh voice that’s distinctly her own. Since I prefer a more direct style of writing, I’m not sure why it didn’t work as well for me.

It could simply have been the combination of ditzy heroine and prissy hero. I felt no solid connection with the characters and their eventual happy ending left me unmoved. Readers who enjoy a screwball comedy may find Something About Cecily enjoyable.

--Karen Lynch

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