Christmas Bonus, Strings Attached
by Susan Crosby
(Silh. Desire #1554, $4.25, R) ISBN 0-373-76554-1
***
This is a nice holiday treat that features two people discovering love for the first time together, while finding themselves too. Reading Christmas Bonus, Strings Attached is a good way to spend a day.

Lyndsey McCord is a transcriber for a security firm and her job requires that she work at night. This works fine for Lyndsey who has raised her younger sister, is helping put her through college and is finishing up her own attempts at being a C.P.A. Because she works at night, she has never met one of the partners of her firm. She knows Nate Caldwell only by his voice and his tapes. She feels she knows him and because of the pictures she has seen, she actually has fantasized about him.

She is surprised when he shows up one night and he and another partner, Arriane, actually ask for her help on an investigation. Nate needs to act as a cook/housekeeper but he canít cook. He and Arriane have devised a scheme where Lyndsey and Nate would pose as a husband and wife team for the weekend. Due to the extra money, and the excitement, Lyndsey agrees.

Their task is to spy on a clientís husband, whom she suspects is having an affair. But this activity puts them in close contact with each other, actually sharing a room and a bed. Things get hot without a doubt. Once the weekend is over, Nate and Lyndsey decide to continue their relationship. The conflict arises when Lyndsey decides she wants to be a P.I. and when Nate realizes he canít commit to her.

Nate, you see, is one of those guys who feels he was hurt by his father, a marine, and whose mother suffered from depression. He joined the army to get back at his dad and met Sam and Arriane, his partners. After a nasty divorce, he fears any relationship. Yet he is drawn to Lyndsey and is a good lover. With an author less skilled, Nate would have come off as a predictable playboy sort. But Crosby instills him with compassion and just enough self-awareness to keep him from being a whiner.

She also has the good sense to let him grow up without major angst. When Lyndsey and he fight, he fights back. He starts to hide, but when Lyndsey draws him out, he stays drawn out. Even in the end, when it looks like he will just hole up, his friends push the right buttons to get him to confront his feelings.

Lyndsey is a nice heroine and she, too, learns about herself quickly. She sees herself through the eyes of others and realizes how much she has lost of herself. She did spend a lot of time giving to get her sister raised. But she is quick to see that now is the time for her sister to grow up too. When she cuts the apron strings, it feels like it is right for both of them. She realizes she loves Nate, but is also smart enough to know he needs time and space. But only so much! When he is a jerk, she doesnít hesitant to tell him so and at the same time, doesnít make him grovel when he comes to her.

The sex is hot and yet, it is one of the things that was a little off with the story. It comes too quickly and seems to be too much too soon for either of them. I think for Lyndsey to stay in character she would not have been quite so fast under the sheets.

But overall, the story is paced well, and has some good romantic scenes as well as hot sex. The stage is set for the rest of the series, stories which will most likely tell Arriane and Samís stories. Give Christmas Bonus, Strings Attached a try.

--Shirley Lyons


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