Fantasy

In Too Deep

Little Miss Innocent

Scandalized!

Sizzle

Wanton

 
Harlequin Duets 23
by Lori Foster & Cathy Yardley
(Duets 23, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-44089-8
****
Even as I write this, I feel intense pressure to work fast. Why? Because I know that this book is already at the book stores; I've seen it myself. The problem is that I enjoyed it soooo much that I can feel time slipping away for you readers who haven't bought it yet. Both stories are big time winners, making this book twice as good and twice as enjoyable.

Lori Foster is a talented author whose work shines, especially during erotic encounters. She's also proving that she's adept with light, comedic work, too, as shown in Say Yes, her contribution to Duets #23. Sara Simmons had a lonely childhood, receiving very little of her parents' attention. She'd really wanted a husband and a family, but she's just broken off with her two-timing fiancÚ and has turned from mild to wild in the blink of an eye. After finding her fiancÚ and another woman in bed, she chased her fiancÚ's inamorata down the street, swinging a garden rake. She was so incensed that she followed the hussy into Gavin Blake's home, where the rake did more damage to his pictures and lamps than to the hussy.

While Sara suffers from acute embarrassment when she sees Gavin, he's mesmerized by the new Sara. He'd been interested in her, but had kept his distance, honoring her engaged status. Now he can stake his claim. But he finds that he's got to go slow and easy. Sara has decided to write off men and is turning her affection to her newly acquired pets, animal shelter rejects. As an animal lover, I found this premise to be gently magnetic. There's Satin, the shedding Tom, a cat that Gavin later renames Satan . . . Tripod, the three-legged itty-bitty dog . . . Maggie, the lonely collie . . . and, and, and . . . .

Truly, Gavin is the stuff that genuine heroes are made of. He recognizes that Sara is flourishing with her new pets, and he relishes her newfound happiness, even if he is up to his knees in pet hair. However, taking his time is proving to be harder than he'd imagined.

Cathy Yardley's contribution is The Cinderella Solution and quite frankly, it was so sensational that it blew me away. When anybody or anything bothered me as I was reading, whether tall and requesting dinner or short, furry and meowing for attention, I was seriously irked. Finally, with the tall one fed and the short ones in my lap, I had a delightful time reading Cathy Yardley's first book. The fact that she's a debut author blows me away, too. This woman is seriously talented.

Charlotte Taylor is a tomboy of sorts who can't resist any bet with her best friend, Gabe Donofrio. They're so competitive that it's almost as if they're forever playing "I can name that tune in one note." When Gabe's sister gives Charlie The Guide . . . How to Go from Miss Wrong to Mrs. Right in OneYear, Gabe hoots at the idea of Charlie finding a man. That ruffles her feminine feathers. They end up betting a thousand dollars on whether Charlie can get a marriage proposal in one month's time.

At this point the story could have sunk to cartoonish antics, a slapstick farce. No, instead we're treated to a comic tour de force. If I wasn't grinning, I was laughing aloud . . . so much so that the furry friends left my lap for more stable seating arrangements.

Charlie does undergo a Cinderella transformation, with the help of her "fairy god friends." The equation changes when Jack Landor, Society Magazine's most eligible bachelor in America, moves in next door. He's such a genuinely nice guy that Charlie really enjoys going out with him, even if their kisses have all the electricity of a dead car battery. Yet her heart is never at risk with Jack, a fact of which Gabe is unaware.

The fun continues as Gabe changes from concerned watchdog to newly aware lover and as Charlie becomes more at ease with her feminine powers. One thing that kept my attention was how humorous these two are, yet their behavior never becomes sophomoric or stupid.

If you miss getting a chance to read Duets 23, then you've missed two warm, tender and funny stories. Lori Foster always delivers a good story, and debut author Cathy Yardley appears to be a force to be reckoned with. Hooray for us lucky readers!

--Linda Mowery


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