Annie & the Prince

Drive Me Wild

His Secret Heir

Plain Jane Marries the Boss

The Taming of the Two

Two Brothers & a Bride

Hope in a Jar
by Beth Harbison
(St. Martinís, $14.99, PG)† ISBN 978-0-312-38197-4
Hope in a Jar was originally published in hardcover in 2009, but the trade paperback came out in 2010.† This story of two women reconnecting at their 20th high school reunion offers little thatís new or even very interesting.† It goes down easy, but isnít likely to be remembered for long.

Allie Denty, at thirty-eight, is drifting through life.†As the story opens, she comes home from work early to find her lawyer boyfriend in bed with the office supplies salesgirl.†Allie doesnít love Kevin, and it doesnít break her heart to throw him out, but sheís invested two years of her lift in his career as a lawyer Ė even working as his paralegal and getting by on temp jobs.†Since she met him when she was thirty-six, this just reinforces the readerís impression that Allie had no career to start with and is a bit of a lifeless doormat.†Anyway, Allie takes a look in the mirror and admits that sheís not the good-looking babe she used to be.† Off to Sephora for some retail therapy.

Allieís high school reunion is coming up, and now she has no date.†Her best friend, Noah, is dating some new woman and she canít count on him for the reunion.†Her former best friend, Olivia Pelham, hasnít spoken to Allie since their senior year, when something went terribly wrong.† Allie decides to attend the reunion for reasons she canít explain.†Olivia isnít planning to attend, but when her mother shows up on her Manhattan doorstep, an emotional wreck from impending divorce Number Five, Olivia is only too glad to escape.

Allie and Olivia are both stunned to see their friend Noah arrive with his new girlfriend, ďToriĒ Ė none other than Victoria Freedman, queen bitch of their high school and formerly known as ďVickie.Ē† Their mutual shock allows Allie and Olivia to reconnect, at least tentatively.†Allie decides to give her life a makeover, but will she ever admit that her old pal Noah is far more than just a pal to her?† Will Noah, whoís carried a torch for Allie for twenty years, ever admit how he feels?

There isnít a lot of depth in this story, which reads a bit like a chick-lit soap opera.†Allie, at thirty-eight still clueless and/or in denial as to her own feelings for Noah, isnít very sympathetic.† Itís hard to drum up much interest in a woman who is pushing forty and still hasnít taken a good hard look at her life.† Olivia, traumatized by an event that long-ago senior year (an event that is introduced late and then dropped with no resolution whatsoever) is more interesting.†Formerly the ďplainĒ one of their friendship, Olivia is now the senior beauty editor of a fashion magazine, and itís Allie who has twenty-five pounds to lose.†Noah gets himself engaged to Vickie, unable or unwilling to discern her true nature.†Allie mopes.†Olivia decides to take action.†I didnít much care.

The author uses chapters of flashbacks to show the early stages of Allieís and Oliviaís friendship, starting with seventh grade and progressing through high school.†Initially, this isnít very interesting, as the girls engage in discussions of such weighty topics as Bonne Bell Lip Smackers.†One could argue that teenage girls just arenít very interesting, but if so, why take up so much page space with it?

The reader is given hints of Oliviaís troubles, but they remain only hints, and one of the weakest parts of the book is the ultimate revelation of what caused Allie and Olivia to part ways years ago. Itís a bombshell, and itís just left hanging.†No resolution, no information on whether it was dealt with or not.† JustÖnothing.†It was a disappointment.† Not that Iím looking for a happy ending for everything, but the way it was brought in and then avoided has to make the reader wonder if Olivia has spent her life avoiding it, too.

Hope in a Jar, while smoothly written, just doesnít offer much substance.†Having said that, Iíd try another of Beth Harbisonís books, just to see if this was a fluke. Iíve certainly enjoyed her earlier Silhouette category romances.†I might get it from the library, though.†

--Cathy Sova

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