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The Sexiest Man Alive
by Sandra Marton
(Harl. Presents #2008, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-12008-7
****
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and Susannah Madison have a lot in common. Both know what it's like to have company e-mail come back to haunt them...in a really big way.

Susannah Madison is a senior editor with Chic Magazine, "Today's Magazine for Today's Woman" (aka "The Magazine for Tomorrow's Woman.") Unfortunately, the magazine, aimed a women between 18 and 35, is being led by a revolving-door parade of yesterday's men as editors-in-chief. Morale at the magazine is low and Susannah vents her frustration in a series of, what she assumes are, private e-mails to her co-worker and confidante, Claire Haines.

When Susannah finally gets her chance as editor-in-chief, the magazine has been bought by Romano, Inc. The new owner is Matthew Romano the same Matthew Romano she's characterized as "studly-but-brainlessly-arrogant" in one of her electronic tirades. According to Susannah, Matthew and his group of interchangeable dumb blondes, "think he's the sexiest man alive."

Susannah's missives have been given wide distribution at the Los Angeles headquarters of Romano, Inc. Matthew's Sicilian temper goes into overdrive and he leaves LA for New York on a cross-country mission to personally pull the plug on the ailing magazine and hand Susannah her walking papers. Matthew Romano never mixed business with pleasure. He was never vindictive. But he'd never met Susannah Madison, either.

He was looking forward to his meeting with the definitely snide and probably incompetent Susan Something-or-other...a President's name. Not that it mattered. Once it was on a severance check, Susan Whatever and her clever office memos would be history.

Matthew launches his surprise attack on the magazine on a day when Susannah's dressed for success in what he calls a "trick-or-treat hairdo" and "grab-bag chic" wardrobe. After verbal sparring and a very funny scene involving a jelly doughnut, Susannah and Matthew find themselves in a torrid lip lock less than thirty minutes after they've met.

Despite their initial attraction, they are wary adversaries. Matthew's resolve is shaken and the magazine receives a 90-day reprieve. Susannah has come up with a plan for three special issues based on a "sex sells" gimmick. Chic will uncover the sexiest restaurants, getaways and men designed to boost the magazine's sagging readership. As publisher, Matthew decides to take a hands-on approach, help Susannah with her research and get to know her better.

The Sexiest Man Alive is a very funny romance. It's not a big misunderstanding story. This is a novel of mistaken assumptions and their consequences.

Sandra Marton's rapid fire dialogue, laugh-out loud humor and pratfalls pepper the first 100 pages of the novel. The action mirrors Matthew and Susannah's relationship. The rest of the novel settles into a slower pace, as the story of Matthew's apprehensive seduction of Susannah. The secondary characters add spice to the mix.

The e-mail and interoffice communication set the stage for the relationship between the main characters, but the ten pages of messages easily could have been condensed without sacrificing the overall effect. That said, I recommend The Sexiest Man Alive and leave you with words of wisdom from Matthew Romano:

"What you write on company memos, on company stationery, on the company's E-mail account, is not yours."

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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