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License to Thrill by Tori Carrington
(Harl. Temp. #740, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25840-2
****
Tori Carrington, the husband and wife romance writing duo known to friends as Lori and Tony Karayianni, has treated us to a story that's a wonderful mixture of romance and suspense with a healthy blend of sensuality and laughter.

This is the start of a new series about five brothers: The Magnificent McCoy Men Don't settle for less than the real McCoy! Each brother is briefly yet tantalizingly introduced. This series could be a humdinger if Marc McCoy is typical of the brothers.

Marc McCoy is a Secret Service agent who's about to break the law, but he doesn't care one bit. His former partner and ex-lover, shot three months ago in the line of duty, is in danger. The crazed killer who shot her has escaped and has sworn vengeance. So Marc is going to save the day by kidnapping Melanie Weber. So what if she's about to get married in two days?

Marc has high hopes for his abduction. He still carries the engagement ring that he bought three months ago. In a cute scene that involves throwing Melanie over his shoulder and locking her mother in the restroom, Marc is successful. He's rescued Melanie and is going to keep her safe.

Melanie Weber is marrying her best friend, a guy who proposed when he found out she was pregnant with another man's child. Mel knows that Marc, her ex-lover, is allergic to marriage and fatherhood. She's doing the best she can. She's quit the Secret Service and will marry to give her baby a good father. When she suddenly finds herself on Marc McCoy's shoulder as he carries her from her rehearsal dinner, her choices now seem less convincing that they did several days ago. Heaven help her, she's still crazy about this man.

Marc has his hands full as he tries to protect a woman who doesn't want his help. He doesn't know that she's three months pregnant . . . with his child. Still, he's so worried about her safety that he forgets that she's received the same training as him. This guy is a male chauvinist pig, but he's lovable and his motives are pure. Handcuffs, gags, safe houses he'll use whatever works to keep her safe.

The touchstone of every book I read is the hero. If he's less than my idea of a hero for whatever reason, then the book is probably not one that I'll enjoy. Marc McCoy is a wonderful example of a hero. This guy knows that he screwed up when he let Mel get away. To figure out what he's done wrong and to try to understand her, he's been reading women's magazines. True, he hides them when people come over, but he is curious about an article which describes "what a woman looks for in a man." He does wonder how to connect to his feminine side or is he even has one. This guy is lighthearted, optimistic and gives the book its charm.

Mel is a good counterpoint for Marc, who comes from a family of all boys. In a scene where she scolds him for punching his brother, she explains that she and her sister fought, but that it usually involved "destruction of clothing." The whole book is filled with one-liners and zingers that are guaranteed to induce a laugh or at least a grin.

License to Thrill does have its serious side, too. Mel doesn't think that Marc wants a future with her and is really worried about his reaction to his impending fatherhood. These two have many problems to overcome. Marc, whose mother died when he was young, grew up with no feminine influence. Still unsure if he'll be a good candidate for marriage and fatherhood, he's willing to work to keep Mel.

The story line picks up speed when Marc accepts that Mel is capable of defending herself, but needs his support. As they work together to apprehend the escaped man, all of the McCoy men become involved. This is testosterone overload at its finest.

Every time Marc grinned at Mel, I kept seeing Tom Hanks with his boyish charm and Meg Ryan with her acerbic wit. Personally, I don't see how you can go wrong with License to Thrill. Marc and Mel bring enough pizzazz to the pages to keep you wanting more. Luckily for us, there are more McCoy brothers. All right!

--Linda Mowery


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