The Best Manís Plan
by Gina Wilkins
(Silh. Sp. Ed., #1479, $4.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-24479-7
****
I finishedThe Best Manís Plan yesterday, and Iím still smiling about it. Considering how depressing the last few books Iíve read have been, it is a real treat to read something with likable characters and a well developed romance. No gimmicks, no crazy plot twists, just good old fashioned romance. The Best Manís Plan features characters from The Groomís Stand In.

Grace Pennington will do anything to help her twin sister Chloe, even if it involves discomfort and inconvenience. She agrees to date high-profile, prominent businessman Bryan Falcon (a man who really irritates her), in order to deflect the tabloid reportersí attention from Chloeís marriage to Bryanís co-worker, Donovan. Apparently, in The Groomís Stand In, Chloe met and dated Bryan. While there was no real passion between them, they felt that they were well suited, and were considering a marriage of convenience. However, before these plans could be completed, Chloe and Donovan were kidnapped by Wallace Childers, an enemy of Bryanís. Forced to spend a lot of time together in close quarters, Chloe and Donovan fell in love.

The media has attempted to turn the whole situation into a scandal, exploiting the fact that Chloe has dumped Bryan for his employee and best friend, seemingly overnight. The negative media attention is very distressing to Chloe and Donovan. Bryan and Grace hope to convince everyone that Grace was actually the twin he was involved with the whole time. A little far-fetched? Perhaps, but this is one of those stories which requires you to suspend your disbelief a bit.

Bryan and Grace attend a series of dinners and parties which are strategically chosen to put them into the public eye. The whole thing is a chore for Grace, who is not the high society party girl type. Although she senses an attraction between her and Bryan, she isnít sure how much of it is real, and how much of it is just really good acting on Bryanís part. To make this relationship work, Bryan needs to patiently overcome Graceís suspicious nature. At the same time, Grace needs to stop worrying about Chloe, and start thinking of what she needs and wants for herself.

There are no conflicts in this book, other than those which arise out of the relationship itself. This is refreshing, as the last couple of books Iíd read had been rife with murder and revenge, often detracting from the romance. In fact, while I was reading The Best Manís Plan, I found myself constantly waiting for something terrible to happen. Thankfully, it never did, and I was able to stay focused on Bryan, Grace, and the progression of their relationship.

There are two minor problems. One is the confusion I felt because I hadnít read the previous book. The other is the premise of the story, which is a little hard to swallow at times. It is difficult to believe that Bryan and Grace would spend that much time working on diffusing rumors about her sister. If the book had been badly written, or if the characters were flat and uninteresting, this book would have received two hearts for sure. It is the wonderful characters, and the way the romance grows slowly over time that elevates this book to four hearts.

Grace is a character after my own heart. She is a ďnon-girly girl.Ē Anyone who hates getting all dressed up and despises wearing heels will relate to her. She is the type of girl who takes the shoes off and pulls the hair pins out as she is walking out of the party. I also liked Graceís insecurity. She feels like the lesser twin - Chloe is neat, refined, and has her act together. Grace is messy, disorganized, and outspoken. She presents a real challenge for Bryan, as she is constantly disagreeing with him. What makes Bryan so appealing is his determination to get to know Grace better, in spite of her difficult personality. He has a sharp memory for detail - always an attractive quality for a man to have. Heís the kind of man who will remember every little thing you mention - your favorite food, color, restaurant - and you donít even have to tell him twenty times! He persistently ďcourtsĒ Grace, never giving up, even when she really gives him a hassle.

If you are looking for a fun, light, read with great characters, run to the bookstore and pick up The Best Manís Plan. However, you might want to pick up The Groomís Stand In as well while youíre there, so you can get the whole story.

-- Kerry Keating


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