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Skirting the Issue
by Heather MacAllister
(Harl.Tempt. #892, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-25992-1
Another entry into the Magic Skirt stories, Skirting the Issue is a blend of the “competition/hate turns to love” and “singles find their true hidden selves while finding love” themes. This makes the story a slightly uneven read, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Samantha Baldwin is a rising executive in the hotel marketing field, coveting a promotion to East Coast Manager for Carrington Hotels. Her biggest nemesis, Josh Crandell, has won two accounts from her and she is feeling a little tentative in her skills. She is set on doing what she needs to do get the promotion. She moves to New York, bringing with her a “magical” skirt passed on by her friend who just got married. Legend has it that this skirt is a man-magnet and attracts one’s own true love.

Wearing the skirt nets Sam an apartment in an upscale area of NYC and two adorable roommates, who are bound to be featured in further stories. This is a unique and amusing little scene involving a bidding war to sublet an apartment. Sam isn’t sure the skirt will help her in her job, but she is willing to give it a try.

Josh has just taken a big risk, quitting his job for the Meckler Hotel chain and striking out on his own as a consultant. He has been hired by Carrington Hotels to teach the marketing staff new tricks. Sam is ordered to help him set up, and then attend the training. During the seminar, Josh embarrasses Sam and ultimately is responsible for her being shipped off to “feminist” management training for two weeks, a boot-camp to help aggressive women find their feminine side. This is a hilarious interlude, with Sam and Josh learning a lot about each other and their perceptions, as Sam endures this course. I won’t reveal all the specifics as they are written with tongue-in-cheek and fun to discover for yourself.

Past history keeps popping up, as it seems that these two shared the start of a romantic night several years back. Sam was ready for more, but Josh, having decided that Sam was not a one-night and goodbye kind of girl, pulled away and rejected her. Just another thing Sam has against Josh.

The story weaves around hate, revenge, attraction and finally love. I had some difficulty with the mix of emotions, as it never seemed clear which one of the pair would turn up with which emotion. And sometimes the emotion displayed just didn’t feel good to me, as I don’t usually enjoy long, drawn-out, revenge-turning-to-love plots.

When the author allowed the characters to reveal themselves and see how their contrasting styles could accentuate the other, I was much more engaged in the story. This part of the story was written with humor and many insights. It is unfortunate that much of this was written in the first person. There would be three or four pages of what Sam thought followed by three or four pages of what Josh thought. Information was also revealed through personal interactions, and these interactive scenes between Josh and Sam were some of the most entertaining in the book.

There were some great secondary characters, including a gay doorman and the unique roommates. They added to the story, generally with humor and a lightening of the tone. The skirt was less than the best part of the story, even causing some confused distractions near the end of the story. However, the author stays true to the premise of the skirt, and even starts it on its next journey.

Skirting the Issue is sometimes fun and engaging and sometimes disappointing. However, it is ultimately a satisfying romance.

--Shirley Lyons

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