Never Naughty Enough
by Jill Monroe
(Harl. Temp. #1003, $4.50, R) ISBN 0-373-69203-X
**
Annabelle Scott has been the perfect executive assistant to Wagner Achrom. She's punctual, loyal, organized and smart. She also has a four year unrequited crush on the man. Wagner, however, is too busy trying to build his own company to notice quiet, dutiful Annabelle,

Not that she hasn't tried. Every day Annabelle makes a list, a la Bridget Jones, of her new mantras and plans for getting Wagner to notice her as more than just his employee. With the help of her more outgoing friend Katie, Annabelle tries tight sweaters, indoor picnics and stretching her back a lot. None of it works, so Annabelle decides that Wagner is just never going to notice. Then Katie convinces her to go to a party where Annabelle is hypnotized. Annabelle, whose father was the king of hypnotism scams among others, is skeptical but goes along just so she can get Katie off her back.

Unbeknownst to Annabelle, the hypnotism actually works and she finds herself suddenly less inclined to do any work and more inclined to pin "Wag" as she now calls him to the desk. "Belle" no longer wants to do any work, and tells Wag she's quitting her job as soon as his big business deal goes through. It isn't long before Wagner can't concentrate on his big deal because of Annabelle's hot body.

Apparently the message in Never Naughty Enough is that being a smart, capable woman isn't enough. Women can't be punctual and hard working and also be sexual beings. No, one must find their inner vapid seductress to be truly fulfilled in life. They have to start being completely self-absorbed and think about sex 24/7 because it's impossible to truly be "free" otherwise. Annabelle's transformation is so annoying that it served to torpedo the book from the moment it happened.

Wagner is fairly bland throughout. He sort of is attracted to the "old" Annabelle but is so caught up in his business that he doesn't have time to really notice her. He gave up his life as a bigwig corporate raider to make his own company based on his father's fuel cell patents. He is a step away from total bankruptcy so this deal is life or death for him. Of course that doesn't mean he can't focus on the important things like what "Belle" is or isn't wearing under her skimpy skirt.

The author tries to build up that subplot of Wagner's business deal, even adding a villain in the form of a cutthroat competitor who is out to ruin Wagner. It's not bad and does offer a distraction from Annabelle's insipid antics. That's a sad thing though, because this is a Temptation Heat book, the reader isn't supposed to want to be distracted.

This is not to say the "good parts" aren't good. They are creative, including an interesting object known as the Blue Boa and give the right amount of heat. The problem is one can't get it out of their head that there was no reason to change Annabelle to have them.

Annabelle finally does realize she's been hypnotized and has the expected response that Wagner only wants her because of the "lie" of her changed personality. Wagner for his part reacts very well to the situation and does an admirable job of trying to convince Annabelle that his feelings were always there. It's all fairly predictable.

The wrap up of the business deal, however, is not and provided one of the truly bright moments in the book. It may not have been the most realistic solution in the world, but it certainly was entertaining and unexpected.

In the end, Never Naughty Enough is plenty naughty; it's just not quite good enough.

--Anne Bulin


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