It's a Guy Thing

What Phoebe Wants by Cindi Myers
(Harl. Flipside #20, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-44194-0
Medical transcriptionist Phoebe Frame is tired of being pushed around by the men in her life. Her ex-husband, Steve, is remarried to a twenty-two year old and wants his grandmother’s diamond ring back. Phoebe’s boss, Dr. Patterson, is dropping way too many sexual innuendoes in Phoebe’s lap. And now her car, a just-purchased, used Mustang, turns out to be a lemon and is being held hostage by the dealer for a whopping repair bill.

Phoebe has had enough. It’s time for her to get What Phoebe Wants.

Her life gets a bit more complicated when sexy Jeff Fischer arrives to install new transcription software and makes it immediately apparent that he finds Phoebe attractive. But he’s six years younger, and Phoebe is sure she can’t be all that alluring. After all, her ex ran off with a woman half his age. Fighting her way past her insecurities and learning to challenge those who are giving her a raw deal, Phoebe finds her way into a lovely new romance, as well.

Phoebe’s efforts to get her car back lead her into a public relations war against the car dealer. It all starts with a letter to the editor, one that catches the public’s fancy. Soon Phoebe is making t-shirts, passing out bumper stickers, and getting her face in the news. Her success may lead her to bigger and better things, and when Phoebe finally decides she’s had enough of Dr. Patterson and his leering, her revenge is hilarious.

Told in first person, What Phoebe Wants is fast-paced, sexy, and offers plenty of laughs. Besides Phoebe, the secondary characters include Darla, Phoebe’s wisecracking best friend and dispenser of advice and encouragement. She’s a standard type, but well done. And Phoebe needs some backup, especially when it’s revealed that Steve, whom Phoebe married at nineteen, is expecting a baby with his new wife. Steve, considerably older than Phoebe, said he didn’t want children with her. Her pain at this revelation feels genuine.

The physical attraction between Jeff and Phoebe heats up fast, and what begins as an unplanned, spontaneous interlude deepens nicely into a hot, but genuine, romance. Jeff is a fine hero, unwilling to let Phoebe’s fear of their age difference stand in the way of something good. Since we only hear Phoebe’s voice, Jeff’s character is largely unexplored, but enough comes through to make him more than a cardboard foil for her antics.

If there’s one quibble with the story, it’s that Phoebe occasionally descends into nitwit territory with some of her decisions. For instance, she’s short on cash and facing possible unemployment, so when she does part with her diamond ring for several thousand dollars, what does she do? Blows it all on some high-end clothing and shoes. Yeah, it may be a female fantasy, but it’s also economic stupidity, and for a woman who is supposedly trying to get her life in order, it made Phoebe look like an airhead. And she takes way too long to tell her sleazeball boss to get lost. Medical transcriptionists have a marketable skill, but it never seems to occur to Phoebe to look for another job.

However, these moments are few. For the most part, Phoebe’s journey to independence is funny, warm, and will leave you smiling. If you haven’t tried any of the Flipside books yet, What Phoebe Wants is a strong entry and a good place to start.

--Cathy Sova

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