Midnight, Moonlight & Miracles

 
The Beauty Queen's Makeover
by Teresa Southwick
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1699, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-24699-4
***
The Beauty Queen’s Makeover is the second of the “Most Likely To” series and you will need to have read the first one to really make sense of this one. In the first one, a secret benefactor was announced by Saunders University professor Harrison. Now Harrison has called in two other students to help him with college administrators who want to get rid of him.

Kathryn Price was introduced in the first tale and she is the Beauty Queen. She is a student who didn't graduate but went out seeking fame and fortune with her gorgeous face. She became a well-known fashion model, primarily in the cosmetic industry. But a few years before this tale, she dropped off the radar. Katie is at a crisis in her life. She was hit head-on by a drunk driver, causing major leg injuries and facial scarring. After surgeries and rehabilitation she is better but not her former beautiful self. She has come to Saunders to help the professor but she is a recluse. She hides from all, thinking she is now grotesque. She is also afraid of men, thanks to a date rape that occurred at a campus fraternity house when she tried to break up with her boyfriend, Ted Campbell; an assault she never reported.

Nate Williams remembers Katie because he has always been in love with her, and he comforted her the night of the attack, never guessing that her emotional upset was due to more than the breakup. But Nate, too, has scars inside. While in college, Nate was a geek – heavy, acne pock-marked and shy. He was often the brunt of fraternity jokes, but he was useful to the frat boys. They let him belong as long as he helped them install "security systems" in the house, including cameras in the bedroom, which they used for nefarious purposes. Nate went on to enter law school, where he excelled. He became a rich and famous defense attorney, using much of his money to slim down and have plastic surgery. Now Nate is handsome, well liked and sought after. But he is disillusioned with defending the scum of the earth, including Ted Campbell. This is the only case he has lost and he is currently appealing a sexual assault charge against Ted.

Nate and Katie team up to help Professor Harrison and find themselves together as they wait for several weeks to get an appointment with the college president. Neither wants to share their secrets, fearing that the other will be disgusted and ruin their burgeoning friendship. Of course, Nate wants more and Katie finds herself both attracted to him and petrified.

The tale explores each of these people coming to terms with their lives and trying to decide how to make a difference. It is rather predictable and at times, disappointing. While they use each other to take risks, neither will take personal risks. This lessens the enjoyment in their characters. As a reader, I often felt that they were prolonging the inevitable and thus was not engaged in their angst. At times they were self-centered. I was never really sure whether to believe they were this anxious, or just putting it on for each other.

Professor Harrison continues to be mysterious, telling only parts of his story. He seems to have much to reveal, but even after two books, I am not sure I care. The Westports make an appearance from the previous story The Homecoming Hero Returns. They are involved in Katie's story and still seeking the identity of the secret benefactor. No further clues are really given, as Katie and Nate are involved in the concern about Harrison getting fired.

Again, this installment is difficult to rate. I liked Nate and to a lesser degree, Katie. Yet they both are rather selfish and bent on their own issues. The underlying plot is about the professor. Because the story is continually unfolding, yet holding out for more segments, it was difficult to stay involved in it. The fact that the two stories are written by two different authors may also lend to that feeling of discontent.

By the time this series is completed, I may go back and correct my impression of the first two books. But as a stand alone, The Beauty Queen's Makeover is merely acceptable, and barely that.

--Shirley Lyons


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