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Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
by Susan Donovan
(St. Martin’s, $ 7.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0312-36604-9
***
Susan Donovan is an author who makes you laugh, sometimes cry and generally keep the pages turning.  Ain’t Too Proud To Beg is one of those books despite a rather low-key and ultimately dissolving threat, a little bit of slapstick, and several very predictable clichés.  It is not one of my favorites, but is worthwhile all the same.

Josie Sheehan is a dog lover, an obituary writer and a woman who has not had it easy in the land of relationships.  She and her friends Roxanne, Bea, and Ginger have declared a pact to hate men, with Josie’s vow being a lot less passionate than the others.  The ladies and their dogs will make it quite well without men.  Except Josie wants a man, and a little lady whom she interviewed told her to basically make a list and send a wish to the cosmos to get that man.  Sure enough, just after sending off the wish, Josie meets Rick Rousseau.

At first, she thinks Rick is one of the groomers at the new Celestial Pet Company where she just won a year’s worth of grooming for her labradoodle, Genghis.  Josie gets up the courage to ask Rick to meet her for coffee and discovers that he is actually the CEO of the company.  Not to be scared off, she intrudes on him anyway.  And that as they say, is love, love, love.

But life and love is way more complicated than that.  Rick has secrets and issues.  He was driving a motorcycle on a joyride with an ex-girlfriend one night seven years ago and there was a crash.  He walked away (well, after several surgeries, many replaced parts and months of therapy) while Margot lay in a coma.  She just died a few weeks ago.  After the crash Margot’s powerful millionaire father, Bennett Cummings, promised retribution.  Rick took him seriously.  He slowly rebuilt his body and now his life.  Yet he is afraid that Cummings will come after him.  Rick has surrounded himself with security of both the man-made and the electronic kind.  Rick’s primary bodyguard is a large black man named Timothy, who they call Teeny.  He is a friend and a man who was also injured. They encouraged each other during long and painful rehab and built a lifelong bond. Teeny is gay, but is dedicated to Rick for life.

Josie and Rick form first a lust-filled bond, and then one of the heart. What is so engaging about these two is their open, honest communication.  Rick pours out his past, his vulnerabilities and his worries – all the while showing his compassion, his caring and his need to do something right.  Josie is a typical “almost airhead” type of heroine.  She is quirky and has some odd ideas, but she is solid.  She is sensible most of the time, clearly engaged in her job, even if it is only writing obituaries.  She is also willing to listen not just to the words, but the heart behind the words.  She is scared but opens up her feelings.  I liked how these two interacted.  Their romance is the heart and soul of this story and it is a good one.  And their sex life ain’t too shabby either.

A major plot line was Bennett’s quest for revenge. I liked how his character gained some depth.  He was not just your one-sided revenge seeker; Bennett was portrayed with feelings even if they were a bit misguided. Another subplot is that of the three friends.  These women are quirky, and at times, angry, silly and downright annoying.  They were not well-developed and it was difficult to keep them straight.  As the story progressed, it was easy to see that the author was setting up some sequels, so their weak stories were more understandable.

As much as I liked parts of this story, there were parts that tended to drag.  There was a series of scenes around Josie’s family that really didn’t fit.  There were times when the dog’s feelings or antics got a little old sooner than intended.  And there were circumstances that fizzled during what was supposed to be the tense/suspenseful part of the story, really killing any tension that was supposed to have built up. 

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg is a story with a strong romance and a weak complementary set of subplots.  Yet, it is more enjoyable than not and good reading for a few hours. 

--Shirley Lyons


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