Her Prince Charming by Nikki Rivers
(Harlequin American #723, $3.99, PG-13)
ISBN 0-373-16723-7
Her Prince Charming is part of a Harlequin American Romance miniseries called "The Ultimate..." This book is subtitled "The Ultimate... Seduction." I think it could easily be renamed "The Ultimate... Coincidence."

Dowdy, predictable Charlotte Riesling is the station manager of her grandfather's radio station in Madison, Wisconsin. The station has had a classical music format since Charlotte's childhood, but it's losing money, so Charlotte's grandfather has decided to change the format to rock and roll.

Charlotte can't stand this. First of all, she loves classical music and hates rock and roll. More importantly, she hates change. After a chaotic childhood where she was shuffled back and forth between unstable parents and her rather stiff grandfather, she craves permanence and routine, and she also has a fairly poor self-image and some deep-seated hang-ups about rejection, since her parents never showed much interest in her.

But more than rock and roll, and even more than change, she hates J.J. Tanner. He's the program director her grandfather has hired to oversee the format change at the radio station. He's got a great track record, but not such a great personality at least, that's the conclusion Charlotte draws after one angry telephone exchange with him. So she decides to head to San Francisco, where he's supposed to be finishing his last week at his old job, to meet him in person and give him a piece of her mind.

But things go a little awry on this San Francisco trip. First of all, when she starts to unpack her luggage, she notices that someone has exchanged all her dowdy clothes for hot, tight, sexy clothes (yeah, right). Secondly, when she goes to J.J. Tanner's radio station, she finds that he's already gone, a week earlier than expected. Finally, she meets a man more on that later.

First I have to tell you that Charlotte, after finding J.J. Tanner has left his job, decides to stay in San Francisco for the weekend, to give herself a little vacation (at her grandfather's near-insistence). Now, her grandfather's pushing notwithstanding, how believable is it that this woman, who is supposed to be practically addicted to routine, would choose to spend a weekend in a strange city, exploring strange new places, particularly when she doesn't even have her own clothes? And I mean, she does not like these clothes they make her very uncomfortable. But she decides to stay anyway. That's about where my suspension of disbelief was strained for the first time.

But there's more! As I said before, Charlotte meets a man. And meets him. And meets him. The first time is in the restaurant of her hotel a chance encounter. In the next twenty or so pages of the book, these two meet by coincidence no less than three times in random places, along with a few other not-so-coincidental-but-still-
highly-unlikely meetings. The man, named Jacob, is handsome, charming (supposedly), and very, very persistent. Every time they meet up, he nags and teases her to spend some time with him.

This is rather surprising, since we know from the sections in his point of view that he's spending a weekend in San Francisco to "say goodbye" to his wife, who died a few years back. He'd planned to revisit the spots they'd enjoyed on their honeymoon in the city, but after a while he decides he'd rather spend the time with a strange woman he met in a restaurant who seems to have absolutely no interest in spending time with him. Ah, well. The author explains this by telling us he feels some connection with her, or something like that. Right, gotcha.

Anyway, I guess the author finally ran out of coincidental ways for them to meet, because Charlotte eventually gives in and agrees to spend time with Jacob. But she demands a few rules: they won't exchange last names, and they won't discuss personal things about their lives. They'll just hang out, see some sites, and possibly give in to the overwhelming lust that sparks between them. Then they'll go their separate ways and never meet again.

Now, kudos to Rivers for giving us a 36-year-old heroine, but please a 36-year-old virgin? A 36-year-old virgin who surrenders this obviously well-guarded virginity to a complete stranger on a weekend fling? I didn't buy it.

But onward, because the ultimate coincidence is still to come. Well, I'm not sure if I was supposed to see this coming from page 5, but I certainly did. And this biggest coincidence of all had me groaning aloud.

Not, however, as loudly as I groaned over some of Jacob's "charming and sexy" dialogue. Lines like "Have you ever made love in the woods?" or "I won't devour you unless you want me to." Give me a break. If this is the kind of talk that makes Charlotte weak at the knees, then she's no one I can relate to.

Her Prince Charming wasn't the worst book I've ever read. Indeed, if Rivers had cut out the entire San Francisco bit and simply written a book about two clashing personalities at a radio station, I might have enjoyed the book a bit more. As it was, however, the mass of unlikely plot developments just about ruined the book for me. The characters failed to engage me, they didn't always act in consistent ways, and the writing was nothing to shout about. Perhaps the most significant thing I can tell you is this: what should have been a short, fun read took me seven days of sporadic reading to slog through. I just couldn't stop putting this book down.

-- Ellen Hestand

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