Cinderella For a Night

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Dream Groom

High Powered, Hot Blooded

Irresistible

Living On the Edge

The Marcelli Bride

Prince Charming, M. D.
Prodigal Son

Quinn's Woman

The Rancher Next Door

The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride

Sizzling

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The Summer House

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Sweet Success

The Wedding Ring Promise

Wife in Disguise

Wild West Wife
  

 
Chasing Perfect
by Susan Mallery
(HQN Books, $7.99, PG13) ISBN 978-0-373-77452-4
****
Chasing Perfect is the symbolic title of this modern love story between a “perfect” retired competitive athlete and a put-together businesswoman.

Charity Jones is a rootless woman whose shiftless childhood with her imperfect mother has left her searching for a place to call home.  She’s all alone in the world now that her mother’s died, and she falls in love with Fool’s Gold, California and the job offer that comes with living in the town as the city’s planner. 

Charity finds some interesting things as she settles into her new home – Fool’s Gold has a shortage of men, and one of her mandates as the new city planner is to bring in businesses that will employ men and entice them to live in town. While she’s fairly sure that the lack of men is a joke, when she starts looking around, she notices two things: that there is a definite lack of men, as complained about by her new circle of girlfriends, and that the men that are in town are pretty spectacular.

Well, not all of the men are, but one in particular: Josh Golden.  Josh is blindingly handsome, devastatingly charming and he’s a world-class cyclist who still carries fame and fortune with him.  All of the women in town sigh and stare around Josh; in fact Charity’s new secretary has a bare-butt screensaver of Josh on her work computer that Charity just can’t forget, even when it’s been taken off for professional reasons.

Josh is hiding something, though.  After a devastating accident in his last race, he can’t ride anymore.  He’s terrified, incapacitated, and everyone in town still treats him like a hero while inside he knows he’s nothing but a scared, shaking scam artist now.  He and Charity get close, but he knows she’ll hate him when she finds out his secret.  Meanwhile, Charity is about to discover that not all of her family is gone, and then matters get much, much more complicated.  Charity believes that she’ll have to leave Fool’s Gold to cope with all of the changes in her life, but Josh doesn’t know if he can let her go for good.

Chasing Perfect starts out with a very interesting premise, and it’s got great characterization.  Somewhere around the middle the story loses steam and just barely manages to regain its footing by the end.

Charity is a solid character, completely understandable in her reactions, and likable. The reader totally understands the motivations that bring her to Fool’s Gold for a do-over.  Though she’s self-reliant, she could have been a depressing character if Mallery had let her dwell on her past, but that doesn’t happen here at all.

My frustration with Charity is that she’s not charming.  She has no glitz, no wow factor, no “I’ve got it all together” attitude.  In fact, it’s highlighted early on in the book that she’s mousy and dowdy.  Yes, there’s a mini-makeover inserted here but it doesn’t seem to be enough to have Josh Golden notice her at all.  Especially since she’s not the typical type of girl he (ahem) “dates.”

Josh is a golden boy, all shiny, sparkly flash and no substance. The upside here is that he knows it.  Was he a talented cyclist?  You bet.  Did he fall into each and every stereotypical famous guy trap and vice there was?  You bet.  How can Charity possibly believe that she fascinates this guy?  And therein lies the problem – I didn’t believe it, either.

Josh’s vulnerability and his raw emotion that’s expressed over the loss of his ability to perform in his sport is genuine.  It’s well communicated to the reader, which is just about the only thing that makes Josh’s character seem human in this case.  However, for me, it just wasn’t enough to make the whole love match and therefore the plot believable.

Chasing Perfect scores some good points for original premise and characters, I really liked the first few chapters of the story and appreciated the well-written modern language.  Unfortunately, it fell off track for me when the unlikely love match steamed up, and just barely recovered by the predictable ending, so I’m giving it three hearts for trying. 

--Amy Wroblewsky


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