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Mr. December
by Heather MacAllister
(Harl. Tempt. #711, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-25811-9
***
Mr. December is the last of the 1998 Mail Order Men, men featured in the fictitious singles magazine, Texas Men. Over all, I found that this series didn't live up to its advance billing. If this weren't the final issue of Texas Men, I'd probably let my subscription lapse.

Lexi Jordan needs a man to bring home for Christmas dinner, but not just any man will do. She needs someone impressive, someone to knock the socks off her parents and her cousin, a famous opera singer. When her roommate suggests that she go meet Mr. December, the twelfth hunk in the Science Hunk calendar featured in Texas Men magazine, Lexi decides to go for the gusto. After all, the science hunks all work near the college where she's a music professor. And, the best reason is that Mr. December is definitely droolable material.

Mr. December a.k.a. Dr. Spencer Price is in a bind. The Science Hunks calendar has been a money maker, with the money used to fund research to develop a robotic hand with tactile sense. Texas Men, which successfully advertised the calendar, is getting complaints of false advertising about the models. Most of the men have had their photos somewhat enhanced, in an airbrushed sort of way, like us and Glamour Shots. If Texas Men gets any more complaints about the science hunks being science duds, any more complaints that the men need body and personality transplants, the magazine may want refunds from the calendar sales. The magazine also wants some positive feedback, publishable feedback, from the various women who are dating the twelve men.

When Lexi shows up with what Spence thinks is an outlandish proposal, having Christmas dinner with her family, he sees a two pronged solution. He'll go if Lexi will write a glowing recommendation to the magazine. He also recognizes her name, a family name associated with funding grants. So he's seeing dollar signs in his eyes when he looks at Lexi. What he doesn't realize until almost too late is that Lexi wants to approach her father about money to refurbish the music building on her campus. This competition won't bode well for their success.

At this point the story could have gone one of two ways. Spence could have realized that Lexi was original, charming and genuine and that he would be a fool to pursue her for what her family could do for him. Then the rest of the book could have been a treat to view their developing relationship. Or it could spend most of its time with Spence speculating on how Lexi could help his career, a career which had been his main focus for years. Choose the latter and you've guessed correctly. Spence takes too long to see Lexi for the special person she is. For most of the book Spence does view her with dollar signs in his eyes rather than stars. And that's too bad.

Lexi is one of those special heroines that it's almost impossible not to admire. She and her roommate Francesca have a longstanding joke about underwear. Francesca wears luxurious silk lingerie and is thinking about leather, too. Lexi sees herself as white cotton. These two are delightful as they compare underwear and its uses, especially Francesca's fake boobs an 'enhancement emergency.' The dialog between these two is witty, entertaining and good-natured. I'm hoping that we see Francesca in her own story, with a hero strong enough to complement her.

Spence is the reason for the three-heart rating. A weak hero means that the book and the relationship aren't balanced. Spence is so . . . blah, bland, colorless. He just didn't make me tingle. Lexi is adorable and full of life, but Spence is just there, plotting ways to get his hands on more grant money for far too long.

Parts of Mr. December are humorous, with grin-inducing dialog. Christmas dinner, the reason for the ruse in the first place, is an eye-rolling calamity. If only Spence had been up to par with the rest of the story, Mr. December would have been a stocking stuffer. Instead, stick with apples, candy and nuts.

--Linda Mowery


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