It Takes a Rebel by Stephanie Bond
(Harl. Tempt. #769, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-25869-0
****
It Takes a Rebel opens as Jack Stillman is talking to his older brother Derek. Derek and Janine from About Last Night (HT 751) are honeymooning in Hawaii, leaving Jack in charge of Stillman & Sons Advertising Agency. Derek warns Jack to expect a visit from the IRS. When the drop-dead gorgeous agent appears, Jack downplays their success, saying that they're on the verge of bankruptcy and are hanging on by the skin of their ass -- um, teeth. As the agent abruptly turns to leave, Jack is delighted . . . until he realizes that it's not the IRS agent he's just tried to bamboozle, but Alexandria Tremont, daughter of the owner of Tremont Department Stores.

Alex has arrived a day early and is appalled at what she sees. Here's a man who's scruffy and is working in an office that resembles Ground Zero. He even has the nerve to proposition her. What an oaf! And to think that her father wants to give Jack's company a chance to run Tremont's new ad campaign.

The next morning when Jack arrives for his scheduled appointment, Alex barely recognizes him. He's in fashionable clothes, has shaved and gotten a haircut . . . the man does clean up good. Alex's father still wants to give Stillman & Sons a chance to handle the department store advertising, so Alex finds that she's stuck working with this beach bum for at least two weeks.

It Takes a Rebel is a simple story with complex characters. It really is your garden variety romance, one that's blooming beautifully. Jack and Alex are attracted but neither wants to be. She considers him a shiftless womanizer, while he considers her a beautiful pain in the ass -- um, teeth. Alex's desire to please her father has, to her, been relatively unsuccessful. One of the reasons she's antagonistic toward Jack is that he was a big college jock football player and is still recognized as Jack the Attack, a point that seems to impress her father. Alex knows that she can't compete mano a mano with Jack, plus she's got a straight arrow, basically clueless doofus of a fiancÚ.

The cast of secondary characters is great. First there's Tuesday, a fairy godmother sort who just appears at Jack's office and takes charge. She's a jewel, the one who dresses him in those fashionable clothes. It helps to have a son who works at Tremont's. Jack keeps telling her that he doesn't have a job for her, and she just keeps proving him wrong.

And then there's Alex's neighbor Lana, who provides the comic touch and almost steals each scene she's in. Lana's take on Alex's fiancÚ is priceless. "My blow up doll Harry is more exciting." Come to think of it, Harry the blow up doll is comic relief, too, especially when Jack tackles him, thinking that he's an intruder. Most of Lana's revelations begin with "Holy." Holy hickey, did Jack leave that bite mark on your leg? Holy husband-hunting, there's more to Jack than meets the eye. She's a one-woman romance cheering squad. Holy guacamole, I hope Lana gets her own story.

The beauty of It Takes a Rebel is watching Jack and Alex begin to trust the other, to begin to care, to take the time to delve below the surface and to uncover the goodness and rightness of their relationship. It Takes a Rebel finally pulled me out of the reading doldrums. For over a month I've been reading books that weren't quite satisfying. Stephanie Bond, with her warm, witty writing, has put a smile back on my face. Thanks to Lana and Harry the blow up doll for all those belly laughs.

--Linda Mowery


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