The Maine Man by Ellen James
(Harl. Super. #822, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-70822-X
Ten years ago, on the eve of their college graduation, three young women vowed to be married by the year 2000. All three are still single, but two want husbands. They are visiting the third in New York, deciding to go on a man hunt. The two visitors are staying until they find husbands.

Meg Danley, the unwitting hostess, now has her two college friends staying with her until they find men. Meg has given up on the idea of a permanent relationship. She has a wonderful job as a manager of a first-class hotel and doesn't want to give up any of her independence. Her parents weren't good role models for a happy, stable marriage. She's too afraid that she'll turn out like them and shuns any kind of committed relationship.

Jack Elliott, the Maine man, is visiting his mother who's recovering from a fall. He's heard all about Meg from his mom and is impressed when he meets her. Meg, however, wastes no time in telling Jack that she's perfectly happy with her life and wants to make NO changes in her status quo.

The story continues interminably with Jack wondering if he wants a relationship with Meg and Meg assuring herself that loving a man will require giving up too much of herself. Meg seemingly relishes every opportunity to tell Jack that she's fine without him. This refrain seems to be her mantra. I am fine without you. I like my life the way it is. Go away. I don't need anyone.

The two college friends have vague romances of their own, about as thrilling and scintillating as the central one . . . which isn't very impassioned. I found all the relationships as exciting as dusting furniture. The characters are dour and considering how sterile the whole book feels, I would think that their chances of procreating are not good.

Occasionally the appeal of a heroine escapes me. I can't figure out why anybody would want to be around her, much less want a lifetime commitment with her. Such is the case with Meg. She doesn't understand the concept of compromise. She's afraid that if she actually allows herself to love Jack, then she'll be assimilated into his life and won't even have her own identity.

When she makes the comment that maybe some things are more important than love, I gave up on her. And that revelation occurs on page 268, with only twenty-eight pages remaining. That gives us too little time to appreciate and enjoy their relationship, which makes it one of those "Much Ado about Nothing" romances.

I'm hoping that the title of Maine Man wasn't supposed to be a play on words, a subliminal message that he's her 'main man.' If so, then this is one time that the power of suggestion didn't work. The Maine Man is just too bland and lackluster for me to recommend.

--Linda Mowery

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