A Diamond in the Rough
By Selina Sinclair
(Har. Temp. # 688, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25788-0
**
I'm sorry that I couldn't find more to like in A Diamond in the Rough. Na´ve heroines who don't think ahead and get themselves into situations necessitating a rescue by the big, tough hero are wearing mighty thin. So are heroines who take idiotic measures just to line up a date for a wedding/high school reunion/business function. Or in this case, her parents' anniversary party.

Sara Matthews is a best-selling author of spy thrillers. She lives in a small town in Ontario and hides her true nature inside the characters she creates. Since the end of a disastrous relationship a few years earlier, she's been secluded in the boonies, writing. But now there's this party coming up, and her mother is on her case, and Sara's ex-fiancÚ will be there. So what does she do? Go solo, have a good time, and tell her mother to get over it? Of course not.

She takes off her glasses, dresses in a skintight red mini, and hotfoots it to one of the two bars in the area, a known pickup joint where she's sure she'll meet "big, strong, frightening men people". Just like the hero of her books, The Jaguar. In predictable fashion, she gets hit on by a drunken oaf who logically assumes she's there to get laid, and our hero, one Dakota Wilder, steps in to rescue her. He hauls her out to the parking lot, where he discovers Sara has never learned to drive and gets around by cab.

Right away I found this to be a bit implausible. How many cabs are there in the boonies, anyway? If you choose to live in a rural area, wouldn't you need some form of personal transportation? Sara had come from Toronto, where I'm sure there are plenty of driving schools. This struck me as nothing more than a plot contrivance to get Dakota to give her a lift home.

Which he does. And finds out, lordy lordy, that he's getting aroused by Sara. Since this hasn't happened in six months, ever since an explosion at an African mine site, Dakota finds he can't get his mind off this mousy brown-haired bookworm with the killer body. Sara and Dakota have friends in common, and it's not long before they're running into one another again. Sara, once she learns that Dakota has been a mercenary in the past, gets the shivers every time she sees him. Golly, he is just like the Jaguar!

Sara doesn't learn by her mistakes. Before you know it, she's back in another bar, looking for a guy. Why this woman didn't just ask her friends to set her up with someone, I'll never know. Since her friends know Dakota, it would have probably made a better storyline anyway. But Sara heads for the bar, ignores the bartender's warnings, drinks her fill of Long Island Tea (thinking it's just good iced tea, the ninny) and gets plastered. Dakota has to rescue her again.

All this was a tiresome setup to a book that just didn't pay off. Dakota's eager to see if all the equipment still works, if you get my drift, and he strikes up a deal with Sara. He'll help her find a guy for the party, but meanwhile, Sara sleeps with him. This struck me as somewhat loathsome.

I wanted to like this book. I'd heard about it on the Internet and thought the premise sounded intriguing. But I'm afraid I can't give it a wholehearted recommendation. There are flashes of humor, and Sara occasionally shows some sense, but on the whole I found the characters to be irritating. Dakota is out for sex to prove that he can still Do It, but commitment? No way. Sara wants to Experience Life but acts like a golly-gee nitwit much of the time. These two are about as mismatched a pair as you can find, and the ending didn't leave me with much confidence in their happily-ever-after.

You may well have a different reaction than I did. A Diamond in the Rough just didn't have much of a sparkle for me.

--Cathy Sova


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