The Pregnancy Test Smart Mouth

Heiress for Hire by Erin McCarthy
(Berkley, $13.00, R) ISBN 0-425-20761-7
When I saw that the heroine of Erin McCarthy’s latest story was a rich girl who liked to shop, I wondered whether I would like the book. I needn’t have worried. Heiress for Hire is one of McCarthy’s best books to date.

Heiress Amanda Delmar is spending the summer in Cuttersville, Ohio, when she gets a call from her father. He’s been paying the bills, but now he’s had enough. He won’t pay for anything more. Amanda is accustomed to her father’s whims, and she figures this will pass. She finds out otherwise when she tries to get cash advances on her credit cards and discovers that the cards are frozen due to insufficient funds.

While Amanda is upset about being cut off, she’s also determined to make it on her own. Returning home is not an option she’s willing to consider. She goes on a budget and gets a job at a local beauty salon.

In the meantime, Cuttersville native Danny Tucker learns that he has an eight-year-old daughter, Piper, he never knew about. Amanda helps him shop for Piper, and Piper is less shy around Amanda. When Amanda loses her job, Danny offers her a job as a babysitter and housekeeper. Trouble is, Danny has been attracted to Amanda since she arrived in Cuttersville, and having her in the house makes him want her more than ever.

Amanda may be a poor little rich girl, but she’s a poor little rich girl with depth. Yes, she’s used to expensive things — $40 shampoo, for instance — but she’s far from shallow. Living alone in Cuttersville gives her an opportunity to decide what’s important to her and what she wants.

Danny is one of my favorite types of heroes, a man who is better at showing than telling, and his actions speak volumes. He is a good man who doesn’t realize how good he is and how much he has to offer. His romance with Amanda is sweet, sexy, and tender.

One obvious aspect of Heiress for Hire is the way it examines fatherhood. There’s Daniel, Danny’s father, a taciturn yet caring father. Danny himself is especially noteworthy; he knows little about Piper when he decides to take her in and love her unconditionally. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the latest in a long string of Piper’s stepfathers, a man who has no use for and showed no care for her.

Amanda’s father is somewhere in the middle. He’s not physically abusive, but he’s not openly affectionate or loving, either. It’s common in romances to see estranged family members come together in a sappy reconciliation scene at the end. There is no sap here, and I like the direction McCarthy went with this part of the story.

If you’ve never read Erin McCarthy before, this is a good book to start with. Although it’s connected with A Date with the Other Side, this story stands quite well on its own. Heiress for Hire offers characters you will care about, a story that will make you laugh and cry, and a book you won’t soon forget. As Amanda would say: it’s priceless.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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