Starting With a Kiss
by Barbara McMahon
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1380, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-24380-4
Well, it could have been worse. They could have titled it The Surgeon and the Virgin. As it is, Starting With a Kiss starts out with a promising setup and then quickly fizzles. A standard plot, characters that often act like they’re in high school, and a large dash of silly prose make for an unmemorable read.

Dr. Abigail Trent, new pediatrician at Merrimac Hospital, has just been dumped by a guy who wasn’t even technically a boyfriend, except in her mind. She has to attend a hospital benefit dinner to accept a large donation from the family of her recently-deceased best friend. An escort has been arranged for her in the form of Dr Greg Hastings, hotshot surgeon and the hospital hunk. In an effort to show she can be just as glamorous as the next babe, Abby overdoes the hair and dress and ends up looking rather trashy. Doctor Greg, however, thinks she looks rather pretty. Certainly not the starchy pediatrician he’s used to seeing at the hospital. So who is the real Abby?

Abby goes weak in the knees whenever she sees Greg. She thinks about his eyes, his hair, his dimple, his shoulders… you get the picture. (And the reader gets pages of it.) Could the fabulous Greg Hastings be interested in her? Of course not.

Greg finds Abby intriguing. But he had a Bad Marriage to a Scheming Wife and will never marry again. After all, no woman could stay married to a doctor, with his unpredictable hours and habit of being called away at inopportune moments. Nope, doctors aren’t meant to be married, and certainly not to career women. If a woman wants babies and a family, she ought to stay home. But he could certainly teach Abby a thing or two about being attractive to men. And if she wants to have a career and kids and a marriage, well, he could introduce her to a few guys.

Abby begins to transform, thanks to a few highlights in her hair and a new wardrobe. Greg, with a fine dog-in-the-manger attitude, finds he doesn’t want her to date other men, even though he doesn’t want any long-term commitments himself. Abby continues to go weak in the knees. The go out to dinner and on picnics. Things heat up. He doesn’t want commitment. No other man makes her tingle.

It was work to finish this book. Aside from the fact that I didn’t care about either of these characters (has Greg never seen a single happy marriage among any of the hospital staff?), the writing was a source of irritation. Greg smirks a lot. He’s amused a lot. He taunts Abby. I don’t know about you. But my idea of a dream doctor is not a smirking, taunting, amused guy with a blanket policy on relationships. Add to this phrases like “she peeked at him through her lashes” (ever do this in front of a mirror? You’ll look like a pouting three-year-old) and characters who march, saunter, mutter, and do all sorts of other lame-prose kind of things, and what you’ll end up with is a laborious read.

Greg was pretty much a lost cause, but there were flashes of vulnerability in Abby. One could almost believe that she’d be a bit of an ugly duckling after umpteen years of school and no time to play. Her transformation, while predictable, was entertaining.

But the romance fell flat, and after fifteen or so chapters of Greg and his nonsense, I didn’t even want this couple to end up together. It wouldn’t be fair to dismiss the author’s other work on the basis of one book, and I’m sure I’ll give her stories another try. Starting With a Kiss doesn’t come recommended, though.

--Cathy Sova

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