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When Lightning Strikes
by Brenda Novak
(Mira, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-07783-1351-9
****
This is not a book to take too seriously. There are situations that are just made for a romantic comedy and some that are not completely believable, requiring the reader to suspend belief. For instance, here is a guy in a messy divorce, seeking custody of his young son, getting texts from his ex and he never once even discusses contacting his attorney. There is another scene when someone alludes to the press that he sexually assaulted a young woman, and it was "reported" to the police as an afterthought. There are a few more of those situations that some readers may not be able to ignore. If you can and just take the book in the realm of a happy go lucky romantic comedy/fairy tale, then you can enjoy When Lightning Strikes.

The hero in this tale is Simon O'Neal, a beleaguered Hollywood actor who has worked to be a good man and is a loving father to his son Ty. Sadly, his ex-wife is a money hungry bimbo who is selfish and self-centered. Sleeping with her father-in-law, who is an aging Hollywood star and a man who was often not a good father to Simon, was one of her many acts trying to get Simon's attention.

Heading into a tailspin, Simon responds by sleeping with every starlet that moves, drinking to excess and generally acting like a selfish Hollywood playboy. His publicist, Gail DeMarco, totally gives up on him. Push comes to shove and Gail and Simon are now at odds. The solution - a solution that would only happen in Hollywood or a fairy tale - is to marry and try to convince the world that Simon is a changed man. They marry and move to a small California town where Gail grew up.

Gail is a typical all American girl, cute but not gorgeous, who was protected by her dad and brother from the world while growing up in small town America. She had boyfriends but only two that she actually slept with. She is generally seen as a prude, even though her business is in promotions and publicity with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. As in all fairy tales, Gail and Simon, who had been friendly most of their relationship, soon realize that marriage in name only is not something that either can sustain for any length of time. And they realize that close proximity breeds familiarity and in this case, breeds more friendship and an appreciation for their fine characteristics. And as in all fairy tales, this leads to love…but not without some bumpy roads to travel first.

I truly enjoyed reading this story, even as I recognized how impractical it was. Brenda Novak has a style that allows the reader to recognize incongruities while believing that for these two fine people, those issues were reasonable and made sense. This isn't a happy go lucky story. It has some grit. The grit just seems to fall off and is easily worked out. The chemistry between Gail and Simon is there too. And while not always doing good things, both are basically good people that the reader can root for. When Lightning Strikes doesn't happen in stormy weather, but having some rose colored glasses when reading it will definitely enable the reader to enjoy the story with the intent and style it is written.

--Shirley Lyons


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