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Stud for Hire? by Debbi Rawlins
(Harl. American # 780, $3.99, R) ISBN 0-373-16780-6
Gracie Allen has just split up with her live-in boyfriend of several years, and her friend Zoey quickly decides she needs someone to make Dwight jealous so he'll move back in again. After all, Dwight is really a great guy, and they do a lot of things as a foursome, and Zoey can't resist butting into Gracie's life, so…

That's the premise of Stud for Hire. Zoey quickly locates a guy in a coffee bar who will fit the bill. Adam Knight is in town as a construction supervisor on a mall project, but Zoey assumes he's out of work and offers him a job making Gracie feel like a hot number. Adam's first reaction is that Zoey is a nutcase, but after he gets a look at Gracie, he decides that maybe it will be fun.

Adam and Gracie hit it off immediately. She's funny and sweet; he's considerate and hunky. Before you can blink, they are fighting their attraction to each other. And fighting it. And fighting it.

This book has lots of funny moments, particularly the interaction between Gracie and Zoey. Unfortunately, the plot is so predictable that nothing comes as a surprise, and things the author tries to insert to shake things up, such as Gracie bursting into tears when Adam smiles at her, feel forced and make her look rather silly. And you know what's going to happen when Gracie finds out that Adam agreed to squire her around for money, don't you? Even though he doesn't need the money and never accepted it.

It's interesting that this book came with a cover quote from Jennifer Crusie, because it struck me as a Crusie clone in several ways, especially the use of a wisecracking girlfriend. And like Crusie, Debbi Rawlins doesn't rely on secret babies, cowboys, or amnesia to make her story work. Good for her. Stud for Hire doesn't break any new ground, but could easily be classified as a solid read.

--Cathy Sova

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