Cinderella For a Night

Delicious

Dream Groom

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

The Summer House

Sweet Success

The Wedding Ring Promise

Wife in Disguise

Wild West Wife

 
Sizzling by Susan Mallery
(HQN, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-77176-2
***
I enjoyed Sizzling while I was reading it for its likable characters and quick pace. Itís light and entertaining Ė but maybe a little too light to be completely satisfying.

Reid Buchanan is a retired baseball player and a full-time hit-and-run womanizer. Unfortunately, his reputation is dealt a serious blow when a reporter he once slept with reveals that he didnít make the earth move for her. Suddenly, everyone is speculating about his skills Ė or lack of them Ė and a few more brave souls have come forward and admitted that Reid did not rock their world.

There are still women who think he was just wonderful in bed, of course, including two of the three nurses heís hired to help his ill-tempered grandmother, Gloria, while she recovers from a hip operation. The third nurse, Lori Johnson, discovers to her chagrin that itís possible to be attracted to someone she despises.

Reid Buchanan was everything she disliked in a man. Heíd always had it easy, so nothing had value. Women threw themselves at him. Heíd had a brilliant career playing baseball, although sheíd never followed sports and didnít know any details. And heíd never once in his entire life bothered with a woman as ordinary as her.

There isnít an enormous amount of plot in this book Ė essentially, itís about the effect that Lori has on the lives of Reid and Gloria, and how they affect her, in turn. I enjoy a character-driven romance, and Ms. Mallery is a skillful enough writer that I was interested in and entertained by these characters, even though none of them could exactly be called complex.

Reid, at least in the beginning, is clearly swimming in the shallowest end of the pool. Having been hurt once, as a very young man, he decided to believe the girl who threw him over when she said he was great fling material, but not the kind of guy anyone would ever get serious about. Since then, because heís handsome, rich and famous, lots of women have wanted to have sex with him, so he just takes it when itís offered. Life is simple.

Except that now he has to hide out at his grandmotherís house, to avoid the tabloid press hungry for a reaction to the attack on his manhood. Which puts him in regular contact with Lori, who doesnít hesitate to point out any flaws she notices.

Lori, of course, is in pure defensive mode. Disgusted with the fact that this superficial playboy makes her knees go weak, sheís blunt to the point of rudeness whether he deserves it or not. It saves Lori from being too good to be true Ė she is so unfailingly positive, determined, thoughtful and honest with Gloria that she transforms the nasty old virago into a model grandmother practically overnight. I was afraid we had a Stepford nurse on our hands until Lori started snapping at Reid.

I was very entertained by the fact that both Lori and Reid are slightly amazed to discover that they have flaws. (Arenít we all?)

Unfortunately, once she starts dressing better, Loriís biggest problem is that she canít believe Reid could really care for someone so ordinary. Low self esteem, uncomplicated by much else, isnít quite enough to keep me interested in a character for over 350 pages. Her change, when it finally comes was too abrupt to convince me.

Reid is more engaging because, once his eyes begin to open to his imperfections, he makes an effort to change. We see his gradual transformation into a better person because he decides he wants to be a better person. It was fun for the reader, but a bit frustrating to note that it all tended to sail right over Loriís head.

There is a secondary story about one of Reidís siblings, which spends a lot of time going nowhere except in the general direction of Ms. Malleryís next book, so it felt like a waste of time in this one.

For me, this book didnít hold up well under analysis Ė but if youíre just going to read, and not get all analytical, itís also readable and fun.

-- Judi McKee


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