Just Kiss Me

The Longest Night

Once Upon a Mattress

Touched by Fire

It Should Happen to You
by Kathleen O’Reilly
(Harl. Tempt. #971, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-69171-8
In the grand scheme of things, Mickey Coleman feels pretty insignificant.

Astrophysical Research Center. This was her home. Quarks, tau neutrino ... These discoveries were the very building blocks of the universe. People never appreciated the simplicity of the atom and all its components. Such a small, simple body, so powerful yet so overlooked.

And Mickey knew just how that felt.

So does author Kathleen O’Reilly.

In the introduction to her latest release, she admits that she, too, was once a bit of a geek. Mickey, she says, is dear to her heart because “her character is closest to my own.” This book, then, is for all of us who have ever felt awkward and out of place. For anyone whose haircut and clothes were never in style. For those who spent more time reading than at the mall. Or liked performing with the marching band. Or were proud members of the chess and science clubs.

O’Reilly reminds us that appearances can be deceiving, that people aren’t always what they seem. Her theme here is an oldie, but a goodie: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

While the plot is a little far-fetched (highly intelligent woman, after a few drinks, is seduced by a lab intern, who blackmails her with a videotape of their encounter until she hires a sexy mobster to steal it back), her characters are down-right delicious. We all know women like Mickey, and we all want to know men like Dominic Colucci - even if we are led to believe he’s dangerous.

We introduced to Mickey in the first book of Reilly’s Bachelorette Pact series, Pillow Talk, when four girlfriends pledge to “revel in their single status.” She came across as, well, a nerd. Extremely intellectual but socially a bit inept, Mickey was either working at her computer or standing on the sidelines, cleaning her glasses on the edge of her t-shirt. Here, however, she’s ... bigger, bolder, more. And it’s not just because this is her story. O’Reilly carefully crafts a character that’s multi-faceted and multi-layered, proving by example that no one should be categorized based on first impressions. The same woman who’s busy preparing a research presentation on galaxy density differentiation finds time to wax philosophical about the stars and the constantly changing universe. Her fingerprints are on file in a national database because she handles plutonium at the lab, but she wears a wig and saucy costume because she doesn’t want to be identified when she first meets Dominic.

Dominic is similarly a study in contrasts and contradictions. “He had the look of a man who carried a tommy gun in his pocket,” but he was also “handsome in the ways of these Italian boys with high cheekbones and dark, brooding looks that said, ‘Casanova was my grandfather.’ ” A lover and a fighter. Third-person narration reveals his struggle for self-respect; we find out that his air of invincibility is merely a shield and Mickey, so often the victim of first impressions, can somehow see beyond his appearance to the conflict -- and the man -- inside.

“Please,” he said, his heart pumping inside him. She didn’t realize how important this was, how much he needed to rediscover that piece of ordinary life inside him. He’d been living a lie for so long, it was taking over him, slowly and surely.

Only one kiss. That’s all he needed from her. One kiss, one meeting of lips, just to feel clean. Just to remember.

With their relationship, O’Reilly helps us remember that love comes in all shapes and sizes. That circumstances can cloud our judgment. That perception isn’t always reality. And most of all, that we shouldn’t judge until we truly know. We may not necessarily like how they got there, but Mickey and Dominic deserve their happily ever after.

Besides, It Should Happen to You gives hope to all geeks (and once a geek, always a geek ... at least on the inside) that it can happen to us, too.

--Melissa Amy

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