A Man for Megan
by Darlene Scalera
(Harl. American #762, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-16762-8
Harlequin introduced us to The Ultimate . . . Catch in January. This month we meet The Ultimate . . . Lover. I have no idea where this series is leading, but I am willingly along for the ride. Thus far this series has been totally charming.

Haven't we all been to garage sales where most of the stuff was really just junk on a table? And haven't we also stumbled across some incredible finds, almost magical in their value to us? That's what happens to Megan Kelly, although she has no reason to suspect that the crock pot . . . crockpot?!?. . . that she's bought will change her life.

Gilgamesh, known for the rest of the story as Gino, is a Jinni. Cursed eons ago because he spurned the advances of Ishtar, the Goddess of Love and War, Gino was sentenced to serve two thousand mortal masters. Megan is number 2000, and after he grants her three wishes, he can return as King of the Upper Tier. Gino has lived in many vessels – no magic lantern for this guy – and we find him living in the crock pot. Yes, Megan's garage sale purchase.

For fear of giving away too much of this delightfully funny plot, just be aware that Megan is not your typical heroine, and Gino is obviously extraordinary. Although Gino prods her, Megan is unsure of what she wants for her three wishes. Unlike some other 'three wish' books where the characters wish for really stupid stuff, Megan takes her time. While she hesitates and ponders on what to wish for, Gino is figuratively drumming his fingers, waiting for Megan to set him free. He does try to tempt her by showing her what untold wealth would be like, but she still hesitates. When Megan does get around to making her wishes, I was touched. They are neither corny nor selfish, but truly heartfelt. Although Megan is far from a do-gooder, I was surprised at the depth and compassion of her choices. Nary a red BMW or mansion in sight.

As with any fantasy, the rules of conduct can be flexible. I've read about vampires that can get out during the day and witches that are allergic to cats. Here I learned things about Jinnis that surprised me. When Megan throws away Gino's crockpot condo, as she calls it, she's unaware that he will now have to stay within five hundred feet of her. This enforced proximity adds dimension to the story. Gino, already attracted to Megan, begins to see her in a new light, admiring her, something that has not always been the case with his previous masters. She discovers the crockpot problem when her offer to buy him a five-quart crockpot, a home twice the size of his original, is met with the shake of his head. He definitely nixes the Cool Whip container idea.

Being around Megan so much makes Gino realize that leaving her will be more difficult than he's ever realized. Around her, he'd felt whole. He'd never imagined it was a feeling he'd find on earth in the arms of a mere human.

This is occasionally a screwball comedy. Gino's droll comments that even crockpot dwellers have their dignity still has me grinning. He's got a wickedly accurate sense of humor, but his humor is deserting him. The longer he remains around Megan, the more he realizes that he's doomed. When she does make her third wish, he'll be able to fulfill a dream which has sustained him for the duration of his enforced slavery. He'll finally be free. Yet suddenly he doesn't want to return to his kingdom. He's become too attached to Megan. Now, no matter what path he takes, he's forever cursed.

Two secondary characters are what keep this story from being a keeper rather than the highly recommended read it is. Megan's lukewarm fiancé, Elliott, is described in such a way that we know he's disposable, an irritant that perhaps will cause mayhem or may just fade away. Elliott's mother also gave me pause. She's too cartoonish to be taken seriously, but that's exactly what Megan does.

Darlene Scalera has breathed new life into the Aladdin legend and given it an original, delightful twist. A Man for Megan has moments of lyrical writing. Some passages are so lovely that I read them twice just to savor the beauty. The love scenes between Megan and Gino are tender, yet hot enough to keep you reading with interest. I bring this information up because I'm still having a hard time believing that this is Darlene Scalera's first book. It is incredibly polished for a first book. I was impressed, amazed and, above all, enchanted with A Man for Megan.

--Linda Mowery

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