|Darren Kaiser works for his father's advertising agency and enjoys the life of a single, attractive, well-to-do guy. He dates a lot of beautiful women, but none of it is serious. The latest beauty, Serena, is fun, likes to hear him talk about his interests, and seems to like the attention of the paparazzi that photograph the two of them at events around town. Much to his surprise, she turns out to be involved with a magazine called Matchmaker and she selects him as the "Manhattan Match of the Year."
Darren does not discover this until the magazine begins to appear on newsstands. Much to his horror, he discovers that his father knew all about the search and is thrilled that Darren's celebrity will bring in more advertising work. After a few days of being hounded by lots of news media and even more women, he decides to leave town in a disguise and to stay away until he is sure things have calmed down.
Kate Monahan is a Seattle hairdresser who works hard to help her mother support her younger siblings. She had to leave high school early to work after her father died and has been helping for several years. She longs to finish high school and go on to become a teacher, but she has several more years before she will be financially able to do so. She rents her own place in the bottom half of a modest duplex. When her new upstairs neighbor moves in, he appears to be a socially awkward computer geek with thick black glasses, bad clothes, and a ragged haircut.
Darren is masquerading as Dean Edgar. He really is a computer geek at heart with a degree from MIT and a plan to develop some educational software for slow readers. He chooses his disguise to match the stereotypical geek. When he and Kate have a disagreement about the shared laundry room, he tries to respond to her like a geek, but he can't completely pull it off.
Kate has a hot temper, but a kind heart. As she gets to know "Dean," she sees flashes of something different under his loud clothes and slumped shoulders. They become friends and she tries to persuade him to let her make him over, but he refuses for obvious reasons. When her inattentive boyfriend lies to her, Dean helps her through it and becomes more than a friend.
It is easy to see where this is going. She hates lying and he knows he should tell her the truth, but keeps putting it off until it is too late. She becomes furious and refuses to see him.
Even though it is predictable, I did like the characters, especially Darren. He really isn't trying to hurt Kate. He is only trying to get away from a media mess that he did not create. Kate is hard working and sincere, but just a little too stubborn, causing a rushed ending to the story.
There aren't many secondary characters, but those shown are realistic. The father is not an ogre and the boyfriend is redeemable and Kate's friend Ruby is helpful, fun, and not overly intrusive.
Underneath It All fits into the category of light summer reading. It has likable characters and a recognizable plot. Only the ending keeps it from being more satisfying.
--B. Kathy Leitle