Duets 18
by Jennifer Drew & Kate Thomas
(Harlequin Duets 18, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-44084-7
Baby Lessons and Too Lucky for Love, two new releases combined into one Duets book, have certain similarities. Both have heroines who are naive, with ingénue qualities and heroes who are worldly wise, bordering on being jaded. Both stories are filled with humor, a dab of angst, a bare minimum of sex and are breezy, fun-filled reads.

Baby Lessons begins with Becky Ryan on a search and rescue mission; she's searching for her paycheck and plans on rescuing it. Fired that morning by her boyfriend -- now an ex, Becky was so flustered and angry that she left her paycheck on his desk. During her 2:00 a.m. raid to reclaim her check, she's spotted. Alas, the policeman who catches her uses a different term: breaking and entering.

Nate Dalton realizes quickly that Becky's story is true. Crooks don't tell stories about being dumped by boyfriends who drool over other women's cleavage. He doesn't arrest her, but drives her home when her car won't start. He's delighted to discover that there's a vacancy in her building. Their mutual plan is to avoid the other. Becky views Nate as too domineering and too much of a take-charge person. Nate, although he's attracted to Becky, doesn't want any kind of relationship right now.

What brings them together is Nate's infant niece. Nate's sister is mysterious about why she needs to leave baby Lucy in Nate's care, but she makes Nate promise that he won't tell their mother. In his quest to keep his promise, he ends up asking Becky to pretend to be his fiancée, perhaps allaying his mother's curiosity about why he's got his niece. Baby Lucy adds highlights to the story as Nate changes from an inept babysitter to a competent care giver.

There's nothing new or different about Baby Lessons. What is appealing is that it's done with a sunny feel, with a deft comedic touch that never turns slapstick. The sexual tension is never realized but it's constantly simmering right below the surface.

Too Lucky for Love is based on a premise of a gypsy curse. It's fresh, original and kept my interest as I anticipated each new twist and turn, each good luck/bad luck scenario.

Tyler Harding is an architect with a master plan for his life. He's methodical, planning for all contingencies. He's on his way to a job interview, a position that he's planned for and has every confidence that he'll get it. A block away from his interview, his life is changed in ways that even contingency plans won't help. Seeing that an oncoming bus is about to hit a grandmotherly type, Tyler throws himself at the woman and saves her.

The woman is far from grateful. In fact she's angry that Tyler has thwarted her suicide attempt. Tyler laughs when he's told that she's Queen of the Gypsies and his problem is compounded. Mrs. Costeceaseu curses him . . . with good luck.

Now the fun begins. Ty gets his job, at twice the going salary. Then he gets a raise. And then he's offered a partnership. He wins the lottery, inherits a mansion, accidentally foils a robbery attempt, wins a second lottery, and many more etceteras.

Marisa Corelli, a young friend of Mrs. Costeceaseu’s, has been cursed by another gypsy, this time with bad luck. Marisa keeps losing jobs and is about to be evicted. Mrs. Costeceaseu proposes a solution. Tyler and Marisa need to move in together. Then perhaps her bad luck and his good luck will cancel the other out.

If Too Lucky for Love had continued on this path, it would have been high energy and loads of fun. But it veered off into a rutted, well-traveled road. Ty, who's from a large family, has decided that he'll probably never have kids. He doesn't want the chaos that he experienced as a child. Marisa, who was orphaned at age three and reared in foster care, knows that a husband and child are just what she needs to make her life complete. Yes, fellow Romance readers, we know where this will lead us.

If you're in the mood for two stories that don't take themselves seriously, for two stories with minimal sex and two stories with feel good resolutions, then Duets 18 just might be what you need.

--Linda Mowery

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