Riding With the Queen

Animal Instincts

Heart of the Dragon

Playing With Fire

 
Catch a Mate
by Gena Showalter
(HQN, $13.95, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-373-77235-3
***
I would never have finished Catch a Mate if I hadn't owed my editor a review. The first hundred of pages are a painful recitation of much of what I don't like in the romance genre: a ridiculously silly situation that tries to pass itself of as quirky and lead characters who not only carry stereotypical chips on their shoulders but also find the burning need to proclaim how much they hate each other as often as possible. I was already mentally penning a review on how Gena Showalter should stick with what she does best, sexy paranormals, and give up on light-hearted contemporaries when something happened. It got better. What began as a teeth-grinding ordeal ended up as a fairly acceptable (if cliché-ridden) piece of entertainment.

Jillian Greene works for Catch a Mate, where she is hired out as bait for unfaithful men. Capitalizing on the good looks, long legs, and sexy figure that are a must for any romance heroine, she earns a living tempting husbands, fiancés and boyfriends. She helps prove they can't be trusted even before the possibility occurs to them. With a job like that, it's no wonder she doesn't think very highly of the male of the species. Her philandering father and her depressive, heart-broken mother don't help much either. When she learns that her male-bashing boss has hired Marcus Brody to do unto women what Jillian does unto men, she is furious. She is also attracted to this handsome, hunk.

Marcus has a similar attitude. He begins trading insults and bets with Jillian, but quickly acquires a more mature attitude. His change of heart is the main reason why this book won me over. It was wonderful to watch him acknowledge his past and present mistakes and touching to see the different ways he shows Jillian he really cares. Jillian eventually goes through a similar metamorphosis. The motivation for her behavior is more predictable and her conversion less moving, but all in all, her character development is quite credible.

Jillian's and Marcus's romance is buttressed with the story of another couple. Georgia, Jillian's best friend and fellow bait, has been in love with Brent, Jillian's brother, since forever, but she doesn't believe he is genuinely interested in her. Because he never had time for her when she was a gawky teen-aged ugly duckling, she thinks it's only her looks which attract him now that she's a white-feathered swan. Of course, she's quite wrong about him (so wrong that it makes me wonder how Jillian could have such a poor opinion about men given her wonderful brother). The subplot does a fairly decent rendition of this clichéd plot, but it doesn't add much more than pages to the main story.

All in all, Catch a Mate has some pretty iffy situations and several silly, worn-out premises. Still, if you are willing to play along, some of the characters will certainly charm you and their odyssey through the dangerous waters of modern love will provide a fairly pleasant read.

 

----Mary Benn


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