The Harder They Fall

Hiding Out at the Circle C

Long-Lost Mom

Who's the Boss

The Bachelor's Bed by Jill Shalvis
(Harl. Tempt. #771, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-25871-2
Once in a while a book comes along that's hard to analyze, much like trying to guess what those eleven herbs and spices really are. I liked The Bachelor's Bed, but the very fact that it has haphazard problems makes it a less than recommended read. If this makes very little sense, that's exactly how I felt as I read it. For me, the bottom line is that the protagonists are just too . . . um . . . larger-than-life to have realistic counterparts. How many Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson types do we know in real life? Or Mary Poppins or Max de Winter, Du Maurier's brooding hero in Rebecca?

Sally Sunshine, better known for our purposes as Lani Mills, cleans houses for a living. She's so tender-hearted that sometimes the people she hires as her helpers aren't really a help to her at all, but she feels better for giving them gainful employment. For over a year she's cleaned Colin West's home, and for over a year she's had a secret crush on this hunk. She describes him as magnetic, passionate and fiercely private. Our super hero is also gorgeous, rich and intelligent. Lani is so intimidated by Colin that they're not even on a first name basis, and their conversations are stiltedly awkward.

Colin West is a genius inventor who's close to perfecting a revolutionary laser surgery process. What's standing in his way are his lovable but interfering relatives. His mom and aunts want him happily married, and they want it yesterday. They've been matchmaking with such energetic vigor that it's ruining his concentration. Their last attempt went awry with the town librarian, a closet nymphomaniac who goosed him in an elevator. What he suggests to Lani is a pretend engagement. His reasoning is that if Mom and the aunts think he's finally fallen in love, they'll quit pestering him and then he'll be able to finish his project.

The bulk of the story deals with Lani wanting their faux engagement to turn into a real one, while Colin manages to hold on to past hurts and betrayals, much as Linus holds on to his blanket. Colin has embraced his victim status for so long that it's become a part of who he is.

Aside from the irritations that Lani is perpetually perky and Colin is too busy picking scabs off of his emotional wounds, occasionally a sentence or phrase would jar me out of my reverie. I'm truly not nitpicky, so it's gotta take something that's confusing or bewildering for me to notice it. Here's the part where Lani, in my imagination, becomes bald. "She looked at him with those huge baby-blue eyes, framed by a golden halo of hair precariously perched on her head." Hair perched precariously...What's that mean? There's no mention that Lani's hair is in a top-knot or a ponytail or anything. I kept visualizing her hair sliding off her head, much like butter off a steaming ear of corn.

Another jarring scene has Lani moving into Colin's house, an added sop so that Mom and the aunties will believe the engagement ploy. Colin can sense that Lani is concerned about the sleeping arrangements. "Come on. I'll show you where the spare bedrooms are. You can pick one." His tour would have been beneficial, if not for the fact that Lani has been cleaning his house for over a year. You'd think that surely she's seen the guest bedrooms sometime during that year!

The Bachelor's Bed does have its share of lighthearted moments. Here's an example of Colin's powers of persuasion as he tries to convince Lani to agree to the engagement ruse. "All right. You want to know me...I'm fairly certain I don't snore. I like classical music, smart dogs and spicy Mexican food. And I always put the seat down." That last fact alone earns him major points.

While the image of Lani as a bald blonde is a daunting one, here's an image that had me grinning. Lani is assuring Colin that his idea of stopping the matchmakers will work. She advises him to keep worrying about the engagement. All of that worrying will just give him wrinkles. Wrinkles. He was about the blow the zipper off his pants and she was worried about wrinkles.

Parts of The Bachelor's Bed were entertaining, while parts of it just seemed too fairytaleish. This is one of those times when having the use of a three-heart rating seems just right.

--Linda Mowery

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