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Ms. Miller & the Midas Man

One on One

By the Book by Mary Kay McComas
(Loveswept #915, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-553-44624-X
With the demise of the Loveswept category line, its authors must find homes elsewhere with other publishers. With twenty books published, Ms. McComas can walk away from this segment of her career knowing that she saved one of her best for last. Some smart publisher should pick her up, and soon. While I have enjoyed most of this author's books, some have been more of a miss than a hit for me. This one, however, is a definite keeper.

It's a keeper, not because of how it's written (though that was fine too), but because it left me with a big smile on my face, and plenty to think about. When I look at the books on my keeper shelves, they are there for various reasons: the first romances I ever read are there for sentimental reasons surely I've read plenty since that are better written. Some books are there because the imagery and the plot lines have left me marveling at the talent of the author. Others because they made me laugh, or cry, or think. Some are there for less tangible reasons. I can't pinpoint why, exactly I just know I liked them. This one quite simply made me feel good.

Ellen Webster is a truly nice person. Maybe too nice. As a result, she's always being taken advantage of, or worse, overlooking or giving away her chances for happiness because she's too busy taking care of others. It's not that she's unhappy with her lot in life. She's not. She loves being nice, and helping others. However, she just has this feeling that she's missing out on something vital.

On this particular day, much like any other, Ellen was going about her life, just being nice. And so far it had cost her a parking space, her place in line at the deli, another lunch hour spent shopping for her neighbor, and a contest win, among other things. Family obligations were a cause of stress and concern. At work, she'd found out that someone much less qualified than herself was not only making more money, but was in line for a promotion that should rightfully be hers. And even worse hadn't she just told her co-worker to go after that gorgeous hunk of a guy that worked across the street? The one she herself was interested in?

While standing in line at the grocery store checkout, Ellen picks up a little green booklet that is destined to change her life. Have it Your Way: Getting What you Want. She buys the booklet and decides to put its lessons into practice. The first lesson is to determine exactly what she wants. She picks out a few things: A raise, a promotion, and that gorgeous hunk across the street.

Jonah Blake is only in town temporarily. He's come to Quincey, Indiana, to see to his father's affairs after his father has suffered a massive stroke. He's never been close to his father. In fact, he hardly knows the man, having been left to fend for himself in a series of military schools while his father was traveling the world as a news photographer. An over-developed sense of family obligation and loyalty are the only reasons he is here. The one bright spot in his days is to watch that fascinating woman across the street. However, she's so busy being nice, she never seems to notice his interest in her.

When these two finally do get together, the attraction is palpable. Watching them come into their own, separately and together, and deal with their family obligations was a delightful way to spend a few hours of recreational reading.

I say this book is a keeper because it made me feel good, but it also made me think. About who I am, and what I want, and how often I get in my own way when trying to achieve my goals. It was enlightening. Nothing overly profound, but instead so obvious as to be easily overlooked. Each of us could benefit from the lessons in that little green book ... especially the last one.

By the Book. What an appropriate title. Buy this book. You won't be sorry.

--Diane Grayson

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