Dear Cupid

Drive Me Wild

Falling for You

Too Perfect by Julie Ortolon
(Signet, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-21707-1
Too Perfect by Julie Ortolon is part of a trilogy of books about three college roommates who learn to step outside their comfort zones and stop letting fear rule their lives. The changes they make are in response to a best-seller written by a fourth roommate, which uses the three heroines as examples on how NOT to behave.

The heroine of Too Perfect is Amy Baker. Amy is uncomfortable dressing the way a slim woman should, because until recently she’s always been heavy. She’s also afraid of travel because, first, she has a terrible sense of direction and gets lost just going to the store, and second, because several family members have died while Amy was traveling. Amy owns a traveling nanny service, and in an attempt to get over her fear, she takes a job watching three children on a cruise, a job she normally would have given to an employee. Amy gets fired for continual tardiness, and because of her tendency to get lost, she ends up stranded on St. Barts with little money and no clothing or identification.

An advertisement for a live-in housekeeper seems to be the perfect solution to her problem. If she stayed on the island for the time remaining of her assignment, Amy could prove to herself and her neurotic grandmother that it was OK for Amy to travel alone. Also, if she went slinking back home with her tail between her legs, Amy would lose the challenge to change their lives that she made with the other two roommates With these ideas in mind, Amy applies for and earns the position, but there is an unusual situation at the renovated fort where she is to work.

Amy is met and interviewed by a gorgeous man she assumes to be an expatriate Frenchman, and is advised that she will be working for his boss. The boss is never to be approached, however, because he’s in seclusion in a tower of the fort while the rest of the place is under renovation. The islanders call the tower’s inhabitant “The Beast.”

Amy assumes that her new boss is disfigured in some way and feels badly about the cruel nickname and by how lonely she feels her boss must be. In actuality, “The Beast” is none other than Byron Parks, the handsome, wealthy socialite, in hiding from the public and the paparazzi.

The attraction between Amy and Byron is instantaneous, although she knows him only as a voice on an intercom and as the bright funny person with whom she exchanges email. Byron knows Amy far better, because he watches her on the in-house cameras and because the assistant that hired Amy is actually Byron in disguise. Amy desperately wants to meet her boss face to face, but Byron won’t allow it, knowing Amy will feel betrayed as soon as she discovers his deception.

The synopsis makes it appear that Amy and Byron are less enjoyable characters than they really are. How TSTL does a heroine have to be to become lost on a tiny island like St. Barts? And how lame is Byron, disguising himself part of the time and playing a recluse the rest? The author does a good job of explaining Amy’s navigational disability, and she’s so down-to-earth and engaging that Byron and the reader can’t help liking her. Byron’s problems are explained well also.

The secondary characters, Amy’s grandmother and college roommates and their fiancées are fleshed-out and play an important role in the story. Despite being part of a trilogy, Too Perfect does all right as a stand alone. Enough of the background is provided to keep the reader from feeling lost, but is not overwhelming. Reading all three books in order would probably be more satisfying, though.

Too Perfect is a good solid read. The writing is competent, the characters are lovable, and the romantic ending is pleasing. So, while this book isn’t earth-shatteringly emotional, it is touching, and most readers should enjoy it.

--Wendy Livingston

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