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Ms. Miller & the Midas Man

One on One by Mary Kay McComas
(Loveswept # 894, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-553-44690-8
A female auto mechanic who dreams of being an arm-wrestling champion and the diplomat scion of a wealthy and socially prominent family. That Mary Kay McComas almost succeeds in making their romance believable speaks well of her talent. That Michelin Albee is such an unusual heroine speaks well of her imagination.

Noah Thomas Tessler has arranged to have his car breakdown on a little traveled road in Nevada. Why would a sane man strand himself in the desert? Because he wants to be "rescued" by the Albee Trucking and Towing Company in general and by Ms. Albee in particular. Indeed, he has come to Nevada for the sole purpose of meeting Michelin Albee and her 14-year-old son, Eric.

Six weeks earlier as he was going through his recently deceased father's papers, Noah discovered that his younger brother dead these fifteen years had left a son. He has come to Gypsum, Nevada, to find out what kind of woman had seduced his brother into abandoning his heritage and his inheritance.

Michelin or Mich as she is known is not what Noah expected. She is lovely, smart and sexy; she is also strong, capable, independent and a da*n good auto mechanic. But she doesn't have the needed belt to fix the car.

Mich takes Noah "Thomas" back to Gypsum, where he meets her son, her father and brothers, and the very unusual inhabitants of a very unusual town. (It seems John Wayne made two movies there, rebuilt the town to look like a movie set, and everybody is waiting for the revival of the western.)

Noah feels an instant attraction for Mich and she reciprocates. And the more he gets to know her, the more he likes her. But there is that nasty little fact that he is masquerading as someone he is not, which becomes an even greater barrier when he discovers that Mich has little time for the Tessler clan. (His nasty father had tried to take Eric away when he was a baby.) Eric does recognize Noah's true identity, by Mich remains blissfully unaware. Every time Noah is moved to initiate intimacies or Mich tries to get things going, Noah remembers and pulls back. This does create some effective sexual tension.

McComas has created an unusual heroine in Mich and one who is eminently likable and admirable. Noah is a beta hero par excellence. Why then am I not recommending One on One?

The easy way out is to say that it did not pass my put down/pick up test. I didn't mind putting it down and didn't rush to pick it up. Obviously, it didn't grab me. Why? I fear that Noah is so beta as to be dull, and there is nothing worse than a dull romantic hero. The author's attempt to liven him up in the latter chapters was completely unconvincing.

But I did like Mich and I found myself cheering her on as she competed to be the state arm wrestling champion. (Did you know that there is a national arm wrestling competition every year in New York? Live and learn.) And since we all know that betas make the best husbands, I am sure that Mich and Noah will have their happily ever after.

One on One is a perfectly acceptable short romance, but it failed to engage this reader's emotions and is, I fear, also perfectly forgettable..

--Jean Mason

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