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Stuck in Shangri-La
by Kasey Michaels
(HQN, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-77059-6
***
For the first 75 pages of Kasey Michaels’ Stuck in Shangri-La, it was too easy to put it down after reading a chapter. This is one book that gets better as the story progresses.

Darcie Reed is hit by two pieces of bad news: first, the work merger she has been working on for weeks falls through; then, she learns that her uncle Horry has died and is asked to attend the reading of the will. When she arrives, she learns that her ex-fiance, Cameron Pierce, was also asked to attend.

The will is yet another blow. Darcie learns that she and Cameron must remain at Horry’s home, which he called Shangri-La, for a month. During that time, Horry’s fortune goes into a trust for his cat, Lucky. If Cameron and Darcie don’t remain at Horry’s home during that time, or if Lucky is harmed, then Shangri-La — and Horry’s fortune — will go to Horry’s brother.

Things don’t improve after the will is read. First of all, Darcie isn’t sure she can stay in the same house with Cameron. They were engaged, but she returned the engagement ring nine months earlier, when Darcie quit her job and Cameron said she didn’t need to find another job if they got married. Trouble is, neither of them has stopped loving the other.

To make matters worse, someone’s trying to harm Lucky and make sure that Darcie and Cameron don’t inherit.

The best word for Stuck in Shangri-La is quirky. There’s a talking cat, scheming houseguests, and the ghost of Horry, who hangs around the house. While quirky can be enjoyable, it’s also subjective. Sometimes the quirky worked well. I was amused by Cameron’s plan to paint targets on the plastic frogs and flamingos in the yard, for instance.

There are also fun running jokes in the book, such as the lawyer’s habit of wearing ugly plaid pants and checking up to see how Lucky is doing. Here’s one scene:

“I’d say you have forty-five, no, forty-four minutes to produce the cat.”

“Ah, look who’s here, the psychedelic turkey vulture, circling hopefully around the soon-to-be deceased,” Cameron said, appearing from the side of the house. He climbed onto the porch, to put an arm across Darcie’s shoulders. “In case you haven’t noticed, Humbolt, you’re about as welcome as your slacks.”

In other ways, though, the quirkiness gets in the way of the story. There are several instances, for example, when Cameron and Darcie are kissing or are about to have a meaningful conversation and they are interrupted by the strange behavior of the secondary characters. Eventually it became predictable. Darcie and Cameron are talking? OK, time for an interruption.

In spite of the interruptions, I enjoyed reading about Cameron and Darcie. In the end, their story is a sweet and delightful one. Readers who like quirky characters and engaging dialogue will enjoy Stuck in Shangri-La.

--Alyssa Hurzeler


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