Simply Irresistible

Truly Madly Yours

It Must Be Love by Rachel Gibson
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-80715-7
Rachel Gibson made a big splash with her first two contemporary romances. Simply Irresistible and Truly, Madly Yours were witty and faced paced, and just a little bit unusual. Her new release has the same fun character of her first books, but I have to admit that its hero and heroine are just a wee bit familiar. Still, they and we have a good time getting to the “happily ever after” and that’s what matters most.

Our hero is the prototypical police detective. Joe Shanahan had been a narcotics detective but has been reassigned to the theft division. The Boise police department finds itself with the biggest theft case in its history. Somebody has stolen the local potato king’s priceless Monet. An informant has told the police that the owners of a local antique store are fencing stolen goods. Joe has been assigned to follow one of the owners, Gabrielle Breedlove. One day, as he jogs after his quarry, Joe has the tables turned when Gabrielle, assuming he’s a stalker, takes him down with a blast of hair spray. The next thing she knows, she’s under arrest for assaulting a police officer.

Our heroine is the prototypical New Age flake. Gabrielle dabbles in alternative spirituality and alternative therapies, thanks to her psychic mother. Her store, Anomaly, offers an eclectic mix of antiques, her own aromatic oils, and pricey bric a brac. She leaves most of the business matters to her partner, Kevin Carter. When the police accuse her of being involved in illegal activities, Gabrielle is shocked. On the advice of her lawyer, she agrees to a deal. She will pretend that Joe is her boyfriend, hire him as a handyman, and allow him to try to find evidence that Kevin is doing something wrong. She simply can’t believe her partner is a criminal; after all, he’s an Aquarian, just like Abraham Lincoln.

Thus, Gibson gives us a delightful romance between two diametrically different people. At thirty-five, Joe is actually thinking about settling down, but he wants a wife who will cook his dinner, keep his socks in order, and provide a stable home for him and their projected kids. Gabrielle imagines that her future life partner will be someone with whom she can share deep discussions about spiritual matters, a man of intellect and sensitivity.

Despite their differences, the attraction between Joe and Gabrielle is palpable. Talk about sexual tension! But, of course, making it with a confidential informer will not help Joe’s career. And Gabrielle has a hard time forgetting that this man cuffed her and threatened her with prison.

If both Joe and Gabrielle are familiar characters, Gibson succeeds in making them interesting and attractive. Joe’s interaction with his family -- with four older sisters, it’s a wonder he survived childhood -- humanizes him as well as providing some really funny scenes. The appearance of Gabrielle’s wacky mother and aunt help us understand why she is what she is. In short, both the hero and the heroine and all the secondary characters are very well drawn.

Do not surmise that just because the hero is a police detective, that It Must Be Love is romantic suspense. The investigation into the theft of the Monet simply serves to bring and keep Joe and Gabrielle together. This is romance, pure and simple. What moves the book forward is the interaction between the hero and heroine. If two such different people come together, it must be love. There can be no other explanation.

Gibson’s books have been compared to Susan Andersen’s or even Susan Elizabeth Phillips’. The comparison is not far-fetched. She demonstrates the same ability to create delightful characters, to write humorous dialogue, and, at the same time, to tug at our heartstrings. It Must Be Love can only add to her growing reputation.

--Jean Mason

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