That Man Matthews

After That Night by Ann Evans
(Harl. Super #1136, $5.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-71136-0
Looking for a nice story with a fairy tale ending? After That Night explores the needs we all have for family and second chances. It is entertaining, engaging and romantic.

Jenna Rawlins is divorced from her husband who left her for his secretary. He left her with little money and two delightful boys, ages 6 and 7. She is a successful accountant, a partner in Fairy Tale Weddings, a bridal magazine with the sole purpose of helping woman find romance at their weddings. Vic is the creative genius, Loren is the photographer and Jenna is the money manager.

However, Vic needs help and convinces Jenna to do a follow-up article on one of their 10 most eligible males. Mark Bishop is due to get married soon and the article would highlight him as the first of the group of eligible men who have found love. Unfortunately, right in the middle of the interview, Markís fiancťe comes in, slaps him in the face and breaks off the engagement.

Jenna and Mark meet by accident a few hours later, share dinner and fall into bed, something neither of them is in the habit of doing. Jenna leaves before Mark wakes up and Mark calls her, making some rude comments. They part hoping never to have to see each other again, despite some great lovemaking.

Six weeks later, Jenna finds herself pregnant. Her sons, feeling insecure and in need of a father, try to search out a good prospect. They find Jennaís file with the information on the 10 most eligible men and start calling. When they get Mark, he realizes instantly that the baby Jenna is going to have must be his. He sets out to confront Jenna.

Mark is the CEO of a multi-city newspaper corporation and has sworn off falling in love. His first engagement was set up strictly as a business deal, with both parties bringing something to the table. Love is not in the picture. Mark learned from his parents, who had a messy married life, that passionate love will be your downfall.

He learns differently from Jenna, her sons, her father and her brothers. He learns about a real family and all the sacrifices and vulnerability that entails. Although he starts off with the intent to keep his emotions out of things, he soon discovers he canít and that maybe his premises are wrong.

Meanwhile, Jenna learns that not everyone is like her ex-husband. She is a woman who knows her own mind, yet is not too set in her ways to make changes for the better. She recognizes she has been relying on her family too much and starts to stand on her own two feet again. Her family is lovable but generally predictable. Her father is irascible, her brother the cop is wary and her fun loving brother is just that. Her children are like real children. They get grumpy, they misbehave, they do some things that are so adorable you just forgive them all their errors.

Evans uses humor effectively. Markís attempts to do laundry are funny without being too absurd. She uses pathos just a little too often, but it is only mildly distracting. For instance, it is evident that Markís childhood was not super. The point was made with a few of the stories he shares. Then we are treated to a horrifying story just in case we didnít get it. Overkill is alive.

Luckily, Evans maintains a fairly even hand through the majority of the story. She mixes lust, love, vulnerability, strength and a willingness to accept a person for who they are. This writing ability saves a conventional story of a one-night stand turned to love from being a predictable and ordinary story.

Enjoy the fairy tale - pick up a copy of After That Night and spend some time with Mark and Jenna.

--Shirley Lyons

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