Oh Baby

Dear Cordelia by Pamela Ford
(Harl. Super. #1291, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0373-71291-X
Answering letters from the lovelorn seemed like an easy way to make extra cash for college to Jack Graham when he started 20 years ago. The local shopper’s weekly newspaper he wrote for loved the exposure and there was no harm, so no foul. The surprising response and explosion into a syndicated column paid the bills and was kind of fun, even if he didn’t know what the heck he was doing. So he called his grandmother for advice, and unbeknownst to Jack, she called her two friends Dorothy and Margaret for help. But Jack’s real dream was to be a sports agent and represent the rich and famous.

Jack continues to write the Dear Cordelia columns and has been working on setting up his sports agent business for the last few years, and he’s close to signing a few top names.  He has represented some players, but hasn't really made a name for himself yet. Reporters clamor for interviews with Cordelia, and as her “agent” Jack turns them down. He is afraid that the scandal that will result when fans discover he has hidden the truth all these years will destroy any chance he has at his dream.

Liza Dunnigan is a food reporter at the Chicago Sentinel. She is respectable, boring, sedate and set in her ways at just 30-something. She wanted to be an investigative reporter but just never forced the move. Now she is re-evaluating her life and is determined to make the changes she needs to so she can fulfill her dream. Her best friend Kristin is providing the supportive push to do it. Liza makes a deal with the editor. If she can get an interview with Cordelia in two weeks, she will be given the vacant investigative reporter job.

Liza finds out that Jack (who she must go through to get to Cordelia) is heading to Coldwater, Maine, which was his hometown. She heads there too. She insinuates herself into his life when Jack advertises for a caretaker for his deceased grandmother’s dog. You see, Grandma loved her basset hound CJ (for Cordelia Jane) so much, she stipulated in her will that the dog can live in her house until the dog passes on and her estate will pay for a caretaker. The last caretaker has just died and now Jack needs a new one. Liza presents herself as a candidate but hedges and says she has to think it over. Since Jack’s other choices are not good choices, he agrees to give her time.

Liza is determined to use the time to convince Jack to tell her how to reach Cordelia and Jack is determined to convince Liza to take care of CJ. Neither anticipates their attraction or the kindly matchmaking that Dorothy and Margaret engineer. There is a sexy divorcee after Jack, snowball fights, dog napping and inept snooping. The tale has humor, romance, silliness and predictability. In fact, from the minute one reads the jacket, the reader knows that both have a secret and the two secrets are on a collision course. Ford does a nice job of entertaining the reader on the way to the crash site.

Jack is a kindhearted man with a reputation as a player with the females. In reality, he is cynical and doesn’t believe true love exists. Liza is not his kind of woman. She is pretty but not beautiful; attractive but not like a model and she is definitely not a party girl. Yet the sparks fly and they find themselves fighting their attraction. Liza fights it because she knows she is being deceptive and Jack fights it because he thinks Liza will be staying in Coldwater when he goes back to Chicago. But love finds a way.

The two matchmakers are classic little old ladies from a small town. They love Jack and think they are taking care of him for his grandmother. There are a few other small town characters thrown in for good measure and the virtues of small town versus big bad Chicago are thrown in too.

Dear Cordelia has just enough quirks and silliness to make it an enjoyable story despite its obvious big misunderstanding set-up and the predictability of the outcome.

--Shirley Lyons

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