Let’s Pretend… by Gail Martin
(Silh. Romance#1604, $3.99, G) ISBN 0-373-19604-0
Sometimes when you pretend, it isn’t as good as the real thing. Let’s Pretend… reinforces that feeling for me, making it just an acceptable read.

Derek Randolph is a successful television reporter in Royal Oak, Michigan. Having grown up in Royal Oak, he has overcome his own inadequacies, his teenage weight problem and his less than promising football career. Now a “hunk” and self assured adult, he is working his way up the career ladder and is hoping to land an anchor’s job soon. His boss, Gerald Holmes, is an old-fashioned man, convinced that marriage breeds stability. Derek thinks he is stable, but he is no way close to marriage.

Jessamy Cosette is returning home to Royal Oak for the centennial celebration. She is the friend of Derek’s older sister, Meg. Derek has always been in love with Jess, but to hide his feelings he acted like a jerk, treating Jess horribly while they were growing up. Jess operates a successful catering business in Cincinnati. She is only coming home to see Meg.

But thrown together by circumstances, Jess and Derek realize they both have changed and there is a strong attraction at work here. Determined to become friends, Derek talks Jess into “pretending” to be interested in him so that Mr. Holmes will think he is heading towards that stability.

Problems abound for the couple. Holmes’ daughter Patricia has been after Derek for years and does not take it kindly that her plans to control him are thwarted. Old friends keep bringing up the not-so-pleasant past, creating some unwanted tension. Derek really wants the anchor job, and has dreams of possibly making the big time in New York. Jess is rethinking her life, contemplating moving back to her hometown that she misses, and starting up a new catering business here. With all this as a background, emotions rage and love blossoms.

Much of this story raises questions, particularly about Jess. Why would Jess want to come back here with memories of heckling by teenagers about her flat chest and gangly legs? She has no family here, and it appears that she has few friends. Meg is a writer and lives elsewhere. What is drawing her back?

Jess is also a wimp. She is supposedly this successful, hard-working caterer, yet she has amazing feelings of inadequacies that the slightest things bring to the forefront. She is continually bothered by what all these people think about her, much of it being negative. Yet she wants to return and thinks they will hire her to do fancy catering.

Derek is a little more believable, yet he too displays a great amount of angst over what people think of him. I often wondered how he could get so far when he seems to have no true self-esteem.

So what’s the upside? The story moves along and engages the reader in its simplicity. Hometown is depicted as a nice place to be. The relationship between Jess and Derek is fun, playful and seems realistic when it is just the two of them. The journey is short (all this takes place in about three weeks), but there is nice relationship building. They talk, they engage in common interests and they even share some good memories.

And when all is said and done, it is the two people who make or break the romance in a story. Since Jess and Derek engage in a satisfactory romance, then Let’s Pretend… is simply that.

--Shirley Lyons

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