Cherry On Top
by Kathleen Long
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-7849-8
****
With her second book for Zebra, Kathleen Long crafts a fun, likeable romantic comedy featuring two characters that find themselves in colorful circumstances. While it certainly didn’t change my life, I had a great time reading it – and sometimes as a reader that is all I’m really looking for.

Cherry Harte has hit the big one – the Super Lotto. Having just been dumped at the altar by her fiancé, she sees this newfound wealth as her ticket out of her life. Living in New Jersey isn’t so bad, but her past has got to go. Not only did her parents name her after a symbol on a slot machine, Cherry’s con artist dad ran off on the family while her mother’s shoplifting has landed her in prison. Relocating with her sister to Mystic Beach, Florida, Cherry is determined to buy her way into respectable society. First stop, the Mystic Beach Women’s League.

However respectability isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When Cherry’s new Jaguar breaks down she ends up taking it to the sexiest mechanic in town. Luke Chance is a former reporter turned mechanic after a public fall from grace. Having been burned before, he stays far, far away from women with money – especially new money, which Cherry reeks of. Worse still, she’s in cahoots with the Women’s League who wants to turn a local estate into a horticultural center! That estate is just the ticket for the local Youth Club that Luke volunteers at. The last thing he needs is to become distracted by Cherry, who is way out of his league.

Unfortunately, he keeps running into her and becomes more intrigued by her with every passing minute. And unfortunately for Cherry her past doesn’t want to stay buried. How is she supposed to become a pillar of the community with family driving her crazy, a sexy mechanic kick-starting her libido, and a vertically challenged mobster tinkering with her car’s wiring?

Romantic comedy is a funny thing, and not always in a good way. While Long fills the plot with numerous zany happenings, she never makes the mistake of spilling the absurdity onto her main characters. Cherry and Luke are two likable and down to earth protagonists that never succumb to silliness themselves. They just find themselves dealing with a lot of it.

Cherry has some warped priorities in the beginning, but she’s essentially looking to belong. She feels that her money, some new polish, and a membership to the Women’s League are the way to do it. However she soon learns that you can never change who you truly are.

Luke is a nice guy who likes to work with children and cares for his aging grandfather. Although he does fall into the romance stereotype of painting all wealthy women with the same brush, he’s never truly obnoxious about it. And while he fights his attraction to Cherry, he’s never unduly cruel to her. He’s merely a nice guy who finds himself falling in love with the wrong woman – or so he thinks.

Cherry On Top is a fun book, and if that’s what you’re looking for you’re in for a treat. It won’t set the world on fire, or alter your outlook on life, but it’s a quick, entertaining read that provided several hours of enjoyment. Likable characters and story, in a style that read fast and fun, Kathleen Long is now on this reviewer’s very short list for must read romantic comedy.

--Wendy Crutcher


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