A Perfect Pair by Jen Safrey
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1590, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24590-4
***
Jen Safrey has written a very good romance novel, but with just a tad too much pulling at the heartstrings for me to fully endorse it.

Josey St. John had a wonderful childhood and has a wonderful life. She is a school teacher who enjoys her kids, loves to laugh and generally sees the bright side to everything. Lately, she has been thinking about having kids of her own, and she wants them with the full baggage Ė husband, marriage and love. Now she must start her hunt for Mr. Right.

Her best friend is her neighbor Nate Bennington. Two years ago, Nate overheard his then new neighbor in what sounded like a struggle for her life. He rushed to her rescue, shirtless and with baseball bat in hand, only to discover she wasnít throwing things at or cursing a predator, she was upset at a football game. She made him laugh and they became very good platonic friends. Since then, they have been inseparable.

Nate needs Josey in his life. He has not had a happy life. He and his older brother Derek escaped from an abusive father when Derek was 18 and Nate was 14. Derek raised him, helped him through law school and protected him. Now Nate is paying Derek back by helping to pay his way through college. But Nate has never forgotten that lost little boy who was terrified of his own father. He has vowed never to let that animal out, the abusive gene he is certain is hiding inside of him.

Josey decides to search for Mr. Perfect and enlists Nateís help with predictable results. Nate realizes how much he cares for Josey and has a difficult time giving his approval for any man she brings home. Josey then realizes the only man perfect for her is Nate. Now she has to convince him of that. And when she discovers that his father, who he said was dead, is very much alive, then Josey sets out to help Nate overcome his past, so he can admit his love for her.

I enjoyed the friendship between Nate and Josey as well as their burgeoning lust. Derek is a perfect older brother. He teases Nate, loves Josey as a sister and truly sees that they are in love with each other. How he helps the romance along is delightful. And when Josey and Nate finally hit the sheets, it is HOT.

I fully realize that children who are abused have baggage. But Nateís baggage only seems to rear its ugly head at convenient times. He has essentially been able to hide this from Josey for the two years they have been friends. Then when it starts to come out, he enters into a major depression that few friendships could withstand. This hidden side of him didnít ring true with me. The last 30 pages were written to tug at the heartstrings. Despite myself, they did elicit a range of emotions, including tears. Yet the resolution to Nateís feelings and his pent up hate just seemed too easy to be realistic.

A Perfect Pair is a fine romance, until the end. Even then it looks like a solid addition to an authorís early career.

--Shirley Lyons


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