Regarding Rita by Gwen Pemberton
(Harl. L&L #49, $3.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-44049-9
***
Rita Lynn, waitress by day and college student by night, is pregnant. Howard, the baby's father, left town weeks ago for a research trip in Eastern Europe, after a particularly ugly fight with Rita. Howard hasn't been heard from since. Rita's sure the silence is due to uncertain mail delivery in the Balkans, but her neighbors and friends in Hooperville, Indiana, are positive Rita's been left high and dry. And because they've been looking out for Rita since she was orphaned at sixteen, they've formed a committee to find her a husband.

After his wife Nina died, divorce lawyer Nate Morrow decided he'd had enough of angry couples, ugly court battles and vicious settlements. He wanted to work with his hands, so he went to trade school and studied to be a plumber. No longer a journeyman, he's moved to Hooperville to soak up small town life. Nina (they still talk though she's been dead six years) said it was the thing to do.

As soon as the denizens of Hooperville size him up young, unmarried man with a trade they realize they've found the man for Rita. Too bad she doesn't want him. She's waiting for Howard.

Hooperville is a nice little town, Rita is a nice woman, Nate is a nice man, and Regarding Rita is a nice book. I enjoyed the couple of hours it took me to read it and I put it down without thinking I'd wasted my time. The way Nate slowly lets go of Nina as he falls in love with Rita feels right and natural, and I liked his loyalty. He'd had a good marriage and he wasn't willing to settle for less than what he'd known. And Rita's muddled attitude toward her missing boyfriend is about right: She must love him because here she is, pregnant by him, but at the same time, she's undeniably attracted to the new plumber.

One thing made this book an acceptable read instead of a recommended one. Nate and Rita spend nearly every evening together for a month, a period of time that deepens and develops their relationship. I think. You see, we don't see any of that month and I feel cheated. We see Nate and Rita at the beginning of the month, suspicious and attracted, and we see them at the end of the month, settled into an affectionate friendly routine. I don't want just before and after. I want the middle, when prickliness gives way to friendship and smart-mouth remarks lose their sting and become banter.

Still, I liked the book enough to read another by Gwen Pemberton. Only next time, can I please see the relationship develop?

--Katy Cooper


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