The Fake Fiancée
by Megan Kelly
(Harl. American,. #1219, $4.99, G) ISBN 0373-75223-7
****
The plotline is fairly standard, the two characters are reluctant at enjoying their romance and the ending is right out of a fairy tale.  So how can this familiar sounding story receive a recommendation?  It is primarily the strength of the characters and the finesse of the author that sets The Fake Fiancée apart.

Joe Riley, a man who owns his own successful company, is afraid of his mother.  In fact she downright intimidates him.  She wants him to get married and she is pushing women at him all the time.  It is driving him nuts, but she recently had heart problems and he is concerned that if he pushes back, she will have a relapse.  So one day, when she was at her best, he told her he was seeing someone and they were close to getting engaged.  When pushed further, he used the name of a caterer off a brochure on his desk.   Mom then informs Joe that it is so coincidental that this is the caterer that will be at her Garden Club gala this weekend and she can’t wait to meet her.

So Joe, being the good son that he is, seeks out Lisa Meyer, owner of Goodies to Go.  He decides to make an agreement with her to fool his mother for a few months, and then they can break up.

Lisa is a divorcee with a five-year-old son, Bobby, and eight-year-old daughter, Abby.  Her ex left her for his young trainee and has not been heard from since…in fact, he might have left the country.  He also left her with debts galore.  She is desperately trying to make her catering business pay and is thrilled to have the Garden Club contract, and she’s hoping that Riley and Ross Electronics will also give her their business.  She is slowly trying to pay down her debt and now Bobby needs a special school program due to his accelerated intelligence.  He is bored and getting into trouble and the school is forcing her to make some tough decisions, even though he is only five.

So despite her misgivings about lying (thanks to her sleaze bag of an ex-husband), Lisa agrees to Joe’s schemes.  Joe meanwhile agrees to pay her some extra money for her efforts, thus helping her pay off the school debt.  But things get complicated as one would expect in this kind of tale.

First, Joe’s mother announces to the world that they are engaged, when they aren’t.  Lisa’s kids are leery and Joe has no idea how to be a father.  Even when he decides to practice, he realizes that he is in way over his head.  Lisa and Joe are also attracted to each other. It has been a long while since Lisa found a man who made her forget her children and Joe finds himself wishing that their ruse was real.

Yes, the plot is fairly standard.  Both Lisa and Joe are willing yet have plenty of doubts.  Joe is concerned about the readymade family and Lisa is worried about a guy who is charming and a workaholic.  The kids are realistic, but the ending is right out of the Brady Bunch…a little syrupy but delightful all the same.

The most positive factor is that Joe and Lisa actually have some depth.  Joe is intent and concerned that he not leave these kids broken hearted like they were when their dad just abandoned them.  And while he wants Lisa, he also realizes she has the need to protect her kids and has to put them first.  Lisa is worried about the effect of this false relationship on her kids, but also on Joe’s mom and dad. She feels like a fraud and that is so foreign to her.  When she realizes her heart might be involved, she is even more cautious.

Kelly is a new author to me and I look forward to seeing if her freshness is something she can maintain.  It shines through in The Fake Fiancée and makes the reading of the story greatly enjoyable. 

--Shirley Lyons


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