An Offer He Can't Refuse

Do Not Disturb

First Comes Love

Wish You Were Here

 
The Care and Feeding of Unmarried Men
by Christie Ridgway
(Avon Books, $6.99, R,) ISBN 0-06-076350-7
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Mafia Princess/newspaper gossip columnist Eve Caruso is used to getting what she wants. Combine the power of "family" with stunning good looks and you have a combination that most men can't say no to. But lately things haven't been going so well. Her father's body has surfaced after years of being MIA, her ex gave her a bad insider stock tip, she's lost her fortune and is stuck staying at the family resort. All that, and now the SEC is on her back - led by an investigator holding a major grudge. So when "bad-ass" monster truck driver Nash Cargill shows up at her family resort, Eve's not on the top of her game.

Nash has no time for "Party Girl" Caruso. He's simply at the spa to protect his little sister, Hollywood "it girl" Jemima after a car tries to run the two women down. He gets off to a rocky start with Eve after a case of mistaken identity. Although he's impressed by the fact that she's willing to sacrifice herself for his sister, he's not taken in by her blatant sexual manipulation. After all, he's used to beautiful women trying to entice him, so Eve's blonde hair, long legs and fluttery eyelashes don't faze him at all. What does get to him are the hints of scared little girl hiding behind the superficial fašade. Now, he just has to cut through her vamping and posturing to get to know the real Eve.

In Nash, Ridgway creates the perfect alpha male: he's rugged, protective, charming and sexy as can be. But he's more than eye candy; Cargill has a wicked sense of humor and a knack for figuring Eve out. He looks beyond the barbs and the wicked tongue to see what pushes Eve's buttons. Sure, he's demanding, but that's what it takes to get beneath Eve's party girl persona.

Eve herself is also very well written. As the illegitimate child of a mob boss, she's brought home to his family after her mother's death. Despite being taken in and raised with love and care, Eve's always felt set apart. She knows her very existence is an imposition on her "mother" and sisters and hesitates to trouble them with her problems. Even though they're a tight knit family, Eve's always holding something back. That's why the relationship with Nash works - he pushes and prods at her until she gives him her all. It's through this, that she comes to value herself and see that she's more than a killer body and pretty face.

The Care and Feeding of Unmarried Men is the second book in the Caruso family. Readers who missed An Offer He Can't Refuse will find themselves a bit sad that they missed out on the first installment, but not at all lost in the story. Ridgway does a great job of making sure each sister is well defined and that the reader has no problem coming in in the middle of the series. The Care and Feeding is a light-hearted comedy that stays light hearted despite dealing with some serious issues (Eve is after all a mobster's daughter). It's a rare book that can make the reader both laugh and cry without feeling manipulated, but Christie Ridgway's done it.

--Amanda Waters


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