A reviewer’s lot is often the luck of the draw. In a recent package, I was delighted to see that one of the books was the launch of Harlequin’s new Flipside series. Billed as “fun, witty, and unexpected,” this series will replace the Harlequin Duets line. While not as enjoyable as I had hoped, Millie Criswell’s Staying Single offers readers a light and fun read.
Francesca (Francie) Morelli has had three weddings. Each time, she makes it partway down the aisle, realizes that she has made a mistake, and runs. The third groom Francie runs from is Matt Carson. She runs just before the best man (who is also Matt’s stepbrother), Mark Fielding, arrives.
Mark decides to get revenge for his brother by giving Francie a taste of her own medicine: he’s going to woo her, bed her, and almost wed her — then leave her standing at the altar, just like she did to Matt. To that end, Mark arranges a publicity campaign through her company and then moves into her apartment complex. And the wooing begins.
Visions of Runaway Bride ran through my head as I read the opening chapter. The movie is referenced directly in chapter two. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the entire movie, but there’s a definite parallel: like the Julia Roberts character, Francie takes off while wearing her wedding dress. This fact, along with the revenge plot, triggered my initial frustration with the story. It all seemed too familiar, as did these perspectives:
Francie: “Not that Francie had anything in particular against matrimony. It just wasn’t right for her. She had no desire to become an extension of a man and to cater to his whims.”
Mark: “Women, he’d discovered the hard way, were duplicitous, selfish, and self-serving. And he was damn sick and tired of it.”
Nothing new there.
In spite of the book’s second-rate start, there’s still much to like. Francie’s inner dialogue had me chuckling throughout the book. There are other humorous moments, some with Francie’s gay roommate, and others with her sister, Lisa.
As for the couple, whatever the circumstances that bring Francie and Mark together, there’s definite chemistry between them.
Once the story gets rolling, Staying Single shows it can be “fun and witty.” If the basic plot isn’t “unexpected,” there’s at least some fun along the way. I look forward to seeing what Crisswell will do with Lisa’s story. But please, don’t let her be another runaway bride.