Every Woman's Fantasy

Manhunting in Montana

The Nights Before Christmas

Pure Temptation

Single in the Saddle

Nerd in Shining Armor
by Vicki Lewis Thompson
(Dell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-24116-2
This is one of those goofy screwball contemporary romances with a cringe-inducing title that I usually avoid like the plague. But I have to admit a certain fondness for the nerd-as-hero plot, so I made an exception and took a chance on Nerd in Shining Armor. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised; veteran category author Vicki Lewis Thompson creates strong chemistry between her likeable hero and heroine, making for a quick, breezy (albeit silly) read.

Jackson Farley has had a crush on Genevieve Terrence ever since she came to work at Honoluluís Rainbow Software Systems, but he knows he doesnít have a chance of dating her. Genevieve is a pretty, vivacious secretary, while Jackson is a color-blind, absent-minded computer geek who is more likely to be the object of ridicule than affection. But when Genevieve agrees to accompany CEO (and notorious ladies man) Nick Brogan to Maui, Jack grabs the opportunity to tag along to save Gen from certain heartbreak.

Turns out thereís a lot more than her heart at stake. Nick is a cold-hearted embezzler who parachutes out of the company plane, leaving Jackson and Genevieve stranded in mid-air. When Jackson uses his experience at flight-simulation video games to safely land the pair on a small deserted island, Gen starts to look at him with a little more respect. And after a few more heroic gestures, Jack looks even more attractive. Soon Gen decides that thereís no reason to waste the condoms that she packed in her suitcase, especially when she can give poor geeky Jack the experience of his life. But Jack wants more than a fantasy fling, and heís determined to show Gen that he can be her dream man. Meanwhile, Genevieveís mother and brother, accompanied by Nickís partner, are searching for the lost duo. And you can bet that we havenít seen the last of Nasty Nick either.

Genevieve may look like a polished sophisticate, but behind that faÁade is a young woman who grew up in rural Tennessee by way of Dogpatch, so she has more grit and gumption than it would first appear. While the readerís first impression of Gen is a clueless airhead who naively thinks she can snare her boss because she understands his ďtroubled childhood,Ē she redeems herself by her resourcefulness when stranded as well as her unfettered sexuality. Underneath the cartoonish Liíl Abner phrases that pop out of her mouth almost every other sentence is a decent character, albeit a bit rough around the edges.

Jackson, who decides early on that ďJackĒ is a more heroic name, is the main reason that the story succeeds. Little by little his confidence grows through his accomplishments and his developing romance with Gen. A perfect example of a beta hero, he overcomes Genís objections to a permanent relationship with noble deeds and pure adoration.

The subplot detailing the tentative relationship between Genís mother and Nickís partner is predictable and bland, although Genís teenaged brother adds a welcome amount of color. The story falters whenever the focus moves away from Jack and Gen, and the Bad Guy stuff is pure Saturday morning cartoon fare.

If you wouldnít be caught dead reading a book with such a moronic title and an equally silly drawing on the cover, you might want to consider this one a guilty private pleasure. Iím not sure Iíd automatically pick up Thompsonís next single title romance, but if the plot appealed to me I might take another chance.

--Susan Scribner

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