Virgin Promise

 
Tame an Older Man
by Kara Lennox
(Harl. American #871, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-16871-3
**
Ex soap-star Phoebe Lane has sworn off men who are only attracted to her classic blonde good looks - men who never bother to look under the surface to see the smart woman beneath. Television producer Wyatt Madison has sworn off ambitious attractive women who only want him because he can boost their careers.

Wyatt moves into Phoebe’s building, their paths cross, and before you know it they end up in bed together, overcome by their mutual passion and drawn to each other despite their inner doubts. Phoebe is a bit put out by the fact that Wyatt thinks she’s just a dumb blonde and Wyatt is nervous about the fact that Phoebe is a bit young for him (she’s twenty-eight, he’s thirty-nine) and that she’s a husband-hunting (he thinks) ex-actress. But do they let these Big Misunderstandings stop them? Nope.

Why does Wyatt think Phoebe’s a dumb blonde? Because she doesn’t do anything to challenge his (or other people’s) assumptions about her lack of intellect. Why does Phoebe mistrust Wyatt’s motives? Because his main reason for going to bed with her is his overwhelming attraction to her physical charms. In spite of all that, the author would have us believe it’s True Love, not True Lust.

Confused yet? I sure was. These characters kept saying one thing but showing the exact opposite by their actions. Like an irate acting teacher, I kept wanting to shout, what’s the motivation?

Let’s start with the heroine. We’re told that Phoebe had been hurt by her previous liaisons with uncaring men who only viewed her as a decoration. In particular, she’d had a bad relationship with the man who used to be her boss. So when does she end up going to bed with Wyatt? After he hires her to work as a make-up artist on his show and becomes her boss. What made this appalling lack of judgment more implausible was the fact that we’re told how smart Phoebe is supposed to be. She’s an intellectual late bloomer, having been encouraged by her mother early in life to get by on her striking looks and 36C cup. However, once her life in Hollywood was soured by shallow relationships and encounters with rotten men, she began searching for something more. Much to her amazement, she discovered she was almost a genius, scoring amazingly on both her SATs and IQ tests. So she packed her bags, enrolled in university as a biochemistry major and began dreaming about starting her own cosmetics company.

Then there’s Wyatt, the older man. He’s just moved, started a challenging new job as producer of a daytime talk show and has no time for relationships, so he tells himself. Women have come and gone in his life, but most of them have tried to use him in some way to further their careers, so he’s just not interested in getting involved at the moment.

The motivation we’re given for the budding relationship is that Phoebe and Wyatt each see that indefinable something in the other person. I’m glad the characters see it because, based on the evidence at hand, this reader sure didn’t. Instead of True Love I saw True Lust. I wanted to tell them both to grow up, sit down and have an adult conversation. Older man, younger woman; chronological age wasn’t the issue here. They were both acting like immature teenagers.

At this point, you may be asking why I didn’t give this book a single heart. The answer is because I do think there are some positive things about it. Kara Lennox’s writing is well-paced and there are some charming scenes, especially when Phoebe is hanging out with her female friends. Also, I’m inclined to think that the entire premise of the series was a strike against the book.

Tame an Older Man is the second installment in a Harlequin trilogy entitled, “2001 Ways to Wed,” the name of a fictitious book. This device is used to loosely tie together stories by three different authors. It goes like this: “2001 Ways to Wed” is a best-selling how-to book sweeping the bestseller lists. It gives women sage advice on how to catch a man, useful, profound advice like, “…Next time you have a domestic emergency, before you call a plumber or electrician, try the boy next door…” We eventually find out that the book simply offers commonsense advice which can be boiled down to be yourself. Which left me wondering why all these women, including the almost-genius heroine, were supposed to be astounded by its brilliance.

And it bothered me that the only reason women were supposed to be lapping up the advice to improve themselves and strive to achieve was so they could be good bait for a husband. Huh? Did I just fall asleep and miss out on decades of women’s progress? I was unconvinced by these characters and uninterested in finding out even one way to wed, let alone 2001.

--Tina Nigro


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