Nobody Does It Better
by Julie Kenner
(Harl. Tempt. #772, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25872-0
***
Debut author Julie Kenner introduces us to a heroine who really is amazed to meet her fantasy man in the flesh. He's everything -- and more - that she's imagined or dreamed about. This ‘Pygmalion with a twist' approach makes for a sparkling, sexy romp.

Nobody really knows that reclusive author Montgomery Alexander, who writes bestselling, slick spy novels, is really Paris Sommers, a woman who's certainly not a Navy SEAL, not a former CIA or even a retired spy with a grudge. She's just an extraordinarily gifted novelist with a knack for writing espionage books à la Tom Clancy. Her publisher, ready to release her books in hard cover, is playing hardball. He wants to meet Alexander before he signs the lucrative contract.

Paris and her best friend Rachel are discussing this latest terrible development at a bar. The party to introduce Alexander to the publishing world is in a few hours, and Paris will have to admit to her publisher that there is no suave, sexy Montgomery Alexander. It's either that or do more stalling. What Paris and Rachel don't know is that their discussion is being overheard by the owner of the bar, Devin O'Malley.

Talk about instant mutual attraction. Both Paris and Devin zero in on the other. But fate and a plot with some surprises add complications for these two. Devin needs twenty-thousand dollars to pay off his dad's gambling debt. Will Paris pay that much to keep her secret? Will Devin have the heart to pull off a blackmail scheme?

At the party Paris is all set to announce that Alexander has missed his plane and won't be there. Suddenly the crown begins to applaud and part for . . . Montgomery Alexander. He walks toward Paris in his confident, arrogant manner, and she "watched the crowd part to make way for a man she knew. A man who didn't exist." What an enjoyable dilemma!

One of the things I love about romances is that we always have a HEA. That knowledge softens many a hard edge. In an erotic elevator scene, the sexual tension begins and it doesn't lessen. What struck me as so compelling is that Devin is a stranger, with mystery and danger surrounding him, but I was never frightened, just highly intrigued. When Paris takes Devin to her hotel room, the atmosphere is thick with erotic anticipation. In another genre this first-time seduction could have been threatening and sinister, but here it's fun and sensuous.

Not only has Julie Kenner created a dynamite hero, a hero in the truest sense, but she's also introduced us to a delightful secondary character, Rachel Dean, Paris' best friend since kindergarten. Rachel is too strong a character, too intriguing to be relegated to secondary status. It's encouraging that Ms. Kenner indicates that Rachel may have her own story before too long. Anybody who tells another woman that her diaphragm is collecting cobwebs and that she'd better start looking for a sexy man is a character who's lively, dynamic and deserves her own book.

My only reason for rating this book a three is the heroine. Ms. Kenner has created a believable, intriguing hero. Devin has foibles and failings, but he has humor and honor on his side. The bottom line is that he's wonderful, and I never felt that Paris was his equal. When her fears cause her to follow an all-too-predictable course, I felt cheated. I wanted more for Devin.

If Ms. Kenner's next book features Rachel, then I'll have what I wanted here: a strong, resilient, believable heroine. And if she gives us a hero who's as delectable as Devin, get ready for a winner.

--Linda Mowery


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