The Bachelor's Bed

Duets 42

The Harder They Fall

Hiding Out at the Circle C

Long-Lost Mom

Who's the Boss

Duets 57 by Jill Shalvis
(Harlequin, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-44123-1
Duets 57 starts out like a light and fluffy soufflé. But like a soufflé with something gone wrong, this book quickly begins to fall. Yes, I like light and fluffy, but Duets 57 loses its charm and becomes a bit tedious. And that's a shame, because this book initially had so much potential to be a funny summer read.

Twins Cami and Dimi Anderson aren't doing too well in the romance game. But with their dismal role models, it's no wonder. Their dad has been married five or eight times . . .they've lost count considering that their step-mamas have Barbie bods and Barbie brains. Their mom is a wee bit controlling in her quest to have grandchildren. Mom has a bad habit of conning Cami into blind dates. Cami is the twin who ‘can't say no.'

In Blind Date Disasters, Cami has just moved into her own town house to gain some independence. Never mind that Dimi's place is within walking distance, just right for borrowing that ‘cup of sugar.' Cami is a fledgling interior designer and decides that her new place needs sprucing up. After it's done, she can use it as an example to showcase her design skills. Enter Tanner McCall, contractor and hunk deluxe. Sight unseen, Cami has hired him to redo her town house.

Tanner at first is in older brother mode as he rescues Cami from blind date disasters, blind dates instigated by her mother. One takes her to a Denny's all you can eat buffet, her date's idea of haute cuisine. When his car breaks down on the way home and he accepts a ride, leaving Cami alone, Tanner comes to the rescue. This pattern is repeated several times until Cami finally develops some backbone and realizes that Tanner is The One.

Blind Date Disasters was actually a light, humorous read. I was reading it during the hot Texas summer, and it seemed to hit the spot. It didn't require major effort to keep up, and I was actually enjoying its lightheartedness. Then I started reading Dimi's story and became quickly disenchanted.

Dimi Anderson hosts a TV cooking show that can't hold its ratings against its competition. Even her mom admits that she only watches the cooking show during the commercials of the Debbie Dee Trash Talk Show. After all, who can compete against a show which features "How My Brother Married My Sister and Gave Birth to Puppies" or "How Making Porn Videos Rejuvenated Our Marriage." No, leg of lamb looks really tame compared to those doozies. Maybe a show featuring making your own edible body paint might work, but Dimi is too serious for that.

The TV Powers That Be bring in a hotshot Hollywood producer, one who's famous for turning TV shows around and making them successful. Mitch Knight rolls in on his Harley, wearing the obligatory black garb of a mean hombre. Either the show will change or heads will roll!

Mitch's changes do work. The cooking show's ratings improve, but Dimi has to swallow quite a bit of pride. Her wardrobe changes drastically, from serviceable navy blue to "Hooters" on air. Mitch wants more comedy and more sex appeal, so he becomes Dimi's sidekick, her on-air partner.

The changes that Mitch suggest just seem sexist and demeaning. He's in charge of her wardrobe, and at one point he's got Dimi wearing a skirt so short that she can't even bend over to get something out of the over without fear of her undies showing. Plus the on-air innuendoes just seem childish. Sure, Dimi needs to lighten up and to have a spruced-up wardrobe, but Mitch's ideas seem junior high horny.

Time and again we're told that the twins are seeing their parents' dismal track records and are shying away from relationships. We're also told that these two are beautiful babes with all the dating skills of Wanda Wallflower. But this storyline just doesn't seem to fit in a book that's meant to be humorous. Either these two need to have credible emotional problems, or we need some kind of conflict that's more in keeping with the romantic comedy philosophy.

The print is overly large in this book, as are the margins. It just seems to me that more details, more fleshing out of the characters and their motivations and more genuine humor and less forced, contrived situations would have helped fill up that excess white space.

Duets 57 had real potential, but like that unfortunate soufflé, it fell, losing any pizzazz it might have had.

--Linda Mowery

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