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Just for the Night
by Leandra Logan
(Harl. Tempt. 725, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25825-9
***
From reading the back cover of Just for the Night and some inside ad pages, I've learned that Harlequin Temptation has a new miniseries, 'Bachelor Auction,' with fifty fabulous heroes up for sale. Does that mean that there will be fifty 'Bachelor Auction' books? Wouldn't that be a manyseries?

Several months ago I picked up one of the 'Bachelor Auction' books and almost immediately put it back down. The heroine had just spent all of her money on the hunky hero. I knew that I would fret for most of the book on how the money could have been better spent. What's so strange is that Just for the Night has almost the same beginning. What's different is the hook, the first part that seemed so refreshing and intriguing.

Millionaire Garrett McNamara, a sexy and remarkably nice guy, is worried that when his turn arrives to be auctioned, there won't be any money left. He's number thirty-nine and is sure that "they would run out of cash before his turn." He's worried that he'll be humiliated and marked down for clearance. How can you resist a man who's just about perfect, yet is unsure of himself? Simple...you can't. He wants his contribution to the dream date, a dinner on his family yacht, to take place right after the auction. He'll fulfill his obligation on the spot.

Shari Johnson, co-owner with her brother of The Beanery a coffee shop has known Garrett since high school and has always been fascinated with this charismatic man. She knows that Garrett won't ever be interested in her, and she realizes that she's got to get over him, to truly begin her life. With the help of her thirty thousand dollar inheritance, money earmarked for renovation of their business, Shari disguises herself and buys Garrett. Having dinner with him that night works into her plans. She wants to seduce Garrett and get him out of her system.

Garrett decides that this auction folderol is all right. A gorgeous woman, known as Flame, has been the high bidder. He's sorry now that he's invited some of his business associates aboard his yacht, realizing that he won't need them as a buffer. This woman is a witty conversationalist, a charming companion, diplomatic and incredibly easy on the eyes. The night he had been dreading is becoming one that will be memorable.

Garrett lets himself be seduced. What a night! Flame is what his fantasies are made of. Awakening alone the next morning, he's disconcerted to find that she's gone. Wait! He does find a key, complete with an advertising key ring. Uh oh, it's from The Beanery.

From here on out the story loses part of its charm and good- natured ambience. Garrett returns to The Beanery, a place he hung out in high school and enlists Shari's brother Dylan to help him find the missing Flame. Seeing Shari for the first time in years, our darling doofus makes no connection. This woman wears glasses and baggy clothes that disguise her figure.

Shari is in a fix, too. Her night with Garrett only whets her appetite for more, but he's busy looking high and low for Flame and really doesn't see Shari. At times I felt as though the key, which is to Shari's apartment, was symbolic for Cinderella's glass slipper. At other times I was reminded of The Ugly Duckling. Shari's beauty and innate goodness are there, if only Garrett would really look.

As Garrett spends more time with Dylan and Shari, he slowly comes to appreciate her. When he grumbles to himself that the two women merged as one would be his ideal woman, I wanted to nudge Shari and tell her to speak out. She knows that Garrett cares for her. And she knows that Garrett cares for Flame. Three little words would have allowed them to express their true feelings. But she never utters, "I am Flame."

Garrett's mother, the quintessential snob, is a character who's not fully fashioned. At times she appears to have his best interests at heart. Having met Flame on the yacht, she likes her. Yet she belittles Shari. Then she and Shari's brother Dylan, who's portrayed as the heavy-handed protector, seem to become friends. I didn't know what the woman was doing. I also found it odd that a society snob would feel any camaraderie with a woman called Flame.

For most of the story, the two lovers may be in the same room, but are apart. This prolonged separation kept throwing me off. I kept seeing the poignant image of fingers separated by a pane of glass. Please excuse a cliche that seems so appropriate here: So close, yet so far away. That's how I felt about the rating. So close to a four yet....

--Linda Mowery


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