My Hero by Marianna Jameson
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-21565-6
****
Witty and polished, My Hero is a delightful first book from an author I’ll be watching.

Miranda Lane is a romance writer with a problem. She’s had fairly steady success with books featuring sensitive beta heroes, but sales have been falling off slightly. Now, she has a new editor who thinks her newest manuscript is formulaic and needs a new plot, a new setting and a new hero. A northeastern setting and a tough, dark alpha male cop hero, to be specific, and the editor wants the rewrite fast.

Miranda knows she’s in trouble, but the editor has a track record that can’t be argued with, so she decides to try. Fortunately, she’s vacationing at a friend’s beachfront condo in Connecticut, so she’s already in the northeast. Now all she has to do is figure out how to make a romantic hero out of one of those obnoxious alpha cop types.

Blowing off some steam, Miranda goes to a paintball gallery owned by a friend, and (to their chagrin) takes out four over-confident players who turn out to be cops. When she sees them after, in the parking lot, it’s obvious she has caught the interest of two of them. Brian, seems like the kind of lithe, lanky blond she usually goes for, both in life and in her heroes. Chas, is tall, dark, cocky, and definitely not her type.

And, while Brian politely invites her for coffee, it is Chas who is suddenly turning up everywhere she turns, fixing a speeding ticket, helping her break into her condo when she locks herself out, and reading her books. That’s why, when the Stamford police department turns down her request for help researching cops for her book, she decides she can ignore the attraction simmering between them and use Chas as her alpha hero

This book has lots of wonderful strengths, prime among which are the strong hero and heroine and their snappy repartee. While both Miranda and Chas have issues that make them a little defensive and unwilling to open up, they’re also intelligent people with senses of humor. In Ms. Jameson’s capable hands, this means their conversations are lively and entertaining rather than whiney, and they come off as flawed but likable (which is to say, well rounded and realistic).

We also see Miranda and Chas interacting with various friends and family in ways that further the story and show us more about who they are as people, which then informs our view of their dealings with each other. The nature of their conflict means that the sexual tension is allowed to ripen naturally. Eventually, it builds to the point where the reader feels the characters must get together, which always makes it much more satisfying when they do.

While I found that the prose flowed very nicely and was highly readable, there were a couple of things that did weaken the book slightly.

Enough was going on to keep pulling me along, but Miranda and Chas’s relationship did get a bit stalled. Essentially, what’s keeping them apart is that he doesn’t do committed relationships and she doesn’t do casual ones. At some point, if the characters are smart, I get frustrated by this obtuseness. I want them to quit generalizing about the whole other gender and pay closer attention to the person in front of them, the one who is clearly not the stereotype they’ve been judging the world by (in the case of this book, Miranda was the guiltier party).

In my opinion, Miranda and Chas could have used a much stronger external conflict to keep the reader more emotionally involved. That way, they could have admitted that they wanted to be together, then joined forces to fight something that was in their way. There is an external force at work in the book as it stands, but only Chas knows about it, and it pushes them apart just when the reader most wants them to be together. It wasn’t a fatal flaw, but it did mean that the strength of the book faded a little towards the end.

As a whole, though, this is a fast-paced, entertaining book that would make an excellent summer holiday read.

-- Judi McKee


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