The Bachelor's Bed

Duets 42

Duets 57

The Harder They Fall

Hiding Out at the Circle C

Long-Lost Mom

Who's the Boss

 
Her Perfect Stranger by Jill Shalvis
(Harl. Tempt. #878, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25978-6
***
This wasn’t so much a love story as a lust story. As lust stories go, this one was pretty good - but I prefer a little more romance in my romance.

Corrine Atkinson likes to be in control - total control is how she got to be an astronaut and the commander of a shuttle mission. That’s why she’s so astonished when, caught during a terrible storm in a hotel with no power and no empty rooms, she finds herself accepting the offer of a sexy stranger to share his bed. The two, understanding that this is to be one night only of fantastic sex, share nothing personal, not even names.

The next day, when Corrine arrives at the Marshall Space Center to meet the new pilot of her shuttle mission, she’s horrified to find that it’s her sexy stranger. Mike Wright was on loan to the Russian space agency for ten years; NASA brought him back to the States when this mission’s primary and secondary pilots both became incapacitated.

Mike is happier to see Corrine than she is to see him. During their night together, he felt a connection with her that he regretted losing. He doesn’t want to ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen. He’s both hurt and angered by her frosty reception.

As far as Corrine is concerned, this is her worst nightmare. She’s certain that the credibility she’s spent years fighting for in the macho world of the “manned” space program will vanish if her male co-workers find out she’s human and not the Ice Queen they call her behind her back.

Corrine’s idea of handling the situation is to pretend she’s ignoring it - and assume that he can’t handle reporting to a woman. Privately, however, she obsesses about how attracted she is to him, particularly working in such close quarters where they are constantly bumping into each other.

That’s because Mike is deliberately crowding her. It isn’t as crass as that might sound - he isn’t totally indiscreet and the last thing he wants is to discredit her - but, since she refuses to talk to him about their relationship, it’s the only thing he can think of to get her attention.

Mike and Corrine generate a lot of heat. Unfortunately, during sex is really the only time we see them connect in a positive way. Working together they are tense, suspicious, uncomfortable and sometimes downright childish. At one point they’re actually reduced to a conversation in which Corrine tells him to stop touching her and stop looking at her. (Stop looking at her?) Mike responds: “Stop touching you, stop looking at you. Is it okay if I still breathe?” How old do you have to be to go into space, anyway?

Corrine believes that their problems are due to the fact that they’ve had sex. In fact, they’re about the fact that she won’t sit down and have an adult conversation with him and clear the air. How did this woman get to be the leader of a shuttle mission with no leadership skills? And it isn’t just Mike - she doesn’t get along with anyone on the team. Partly because of her “obnoxious, controlling attitude” (those are Mike’s words, by the way), and partly because she doesn’t have a sense of humor or a sense of perspective. Mike was a good guy - it was Corrine who couldn’t see past her own prejudices.

So, when did these two fall in love? I can’t answer that. Eventually, Mike muses that, after working with her for weeks he knew “what it took to make her smile, even laugh. Knew how to make her entire face light up with the thrill of what they were doing. Knew how she thought, and what she wanted out of her day.” I’d have enjoyed the book a whole lot more if I’d been included in those moments.

But while Mike is at least trying to get to know her, Corrine is thinking about sex. It’s wonderful that she’s having great sex with the guy, but sex and love are two different things, remember? And while great sex can make a good romance even better, I was hoping for more of a love story.

--Judi McKee


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