Hers For the Weekend
by Tanya Michaels
(Harl. Tempt. #968, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN: 0-373-69168-8
Piper Jamieson needs a man.

But not for the reasons you might imagine. (Well, maybe that too!) She’s heading home to visit her loving but meddlesome family and they’re expecting her to arrive with boyfriend in tow. Only she doesn’t have one. Hasn’t had one for quite some time.

A little white lie, told to assuage her mother and ailing grandmother, leaves her in a quandary. Desperate, she turns to her neighbor, co-worker and friend, Josh Weber. He’s a bit of a flirt, but a childhood in foster homes has left him afraid to risk his heart, so he’s rarely serious ... about anything.

Tall, lean and extremely handsome, he is, as Piper observes, “entertaining and evasive.” He doesn’t like to talk about himself, or his past. Still, they’re best friends, and although she doesn’t ask exactly, he feels compelled to help her. Then, of course, he’s “Hers For the Weekend.”

Author Tanya Michaels latest release is yet another take on the oft-used friends-to-lovers theme. The fun thing about such stories is, when done right, they make you believe in the possibility of finding love right next to you, maybe even where you least expected it.

Over the long weekend together, Piper - and the reader - begins to see Josh through different eyes.

She knew instinctively that she wouldn’t be reacting to any other man this way. But it seemed something about Josh -- lately, everything about Josh -- made her go as warm and gooey as a Chocomel left to melt in a car on a sunny day.

And just a short while later:

How was it that she’d known him for so long, yet felt as though she were seeing him for the first time?

Michaels crafts a fun novel that encourages us to look at our male friends in a different light. It’s a quick read, full of interesting characters; even the conflict is a bit unique. She juxtaposes a hero and heroine with two completely different backgrounds who are really very much alike.

For example, neither wants to get married. Or so they both think.

Josh, devastated when the one family who wanted to adopt him was transferred to Europe, is afraid of opening up his heart again and won’t consider tying the knot. Piper grew up surrounded by people who care about her, but thinks her mother and sister settled too easily into their husbands’ lives. She’s a modern, independent woman - the only female draftsman at the Houston architectural firm of Callahan, Kagle and Munroe - who’s not so much anti-marriage as “anti-giving-up-your-identity-for-a-man.”

But when she takes him home for the weekend, their attitudes begin to change, helped along by her wonderfully characterized family. From the straight-talking Nana to the happily married and very pregnant sister Daphne, Michaels’ secondary cast makes readers want to visit Rebecca, Texas. Even Josh, who’s hardened himself against caring for anyone or anything, finds he’s falling in love with the whole lot of them. It’s sweet to see how the ice around his heart slowly melts in the presence of such unconditional acceptance and warmth from Piper’s relatives.

Unfortunately, when compared to Piper, whose character is so three-dimensional she almost jumps from the page, Josh is a bit weak. He has a solid beginning, but doesn’t emerge quite as well from the author’s imagination. Admittedly, he’s supposed to be reticent, but readers need more than mere wisps of information about him so that we can understand why he thinks or acts the way he does. For example, there are brief and passing references to a woman from his past named Dana; the omniscient third-person narrator could have filled in some of the details. Sometimes we can’t empathize with Josh because he’s a bit too evasive and elusive.

Readers are thrown into the story quickly, and it moves along well. However, we don’t have enough time to develop a relationship with Josh, nor understand the depth of his friendship with Piper, before the conflict takes them from friends to lovers. As early as the first chapter, Piper is thinking about Josh naked: “Probably looks even more like a walking fantasy in no clothes at all.” A friends-to-lovers story works better when more time is given to establishing the initial relationship.

Still, the characters are endearing and the plot is well played. Michaels shows a lot of promise, and her next book will be much anticipated.

-- Melissa Amy

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