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Lady's Man by Suzanne Simmons
(St. Martins, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-96825-6
***
I usually like books by Suzanne Simmons, and for the most part I like Lady's Man. The problem is the premise, which just doesn't make sense to me, and the lack of detail concerning the background of the heroine.

Coleman Worth is a self-made man. An orphan and the product of foster homes, he's now the CEO of Worth Industries. Because of being abandoned as a child, Cole has issues with things like trust and love so he avoids them religiously. When corporate life gets a little dull, he takes off on adventures Cole likes testing his survival skills.

Twenty-nine-year-old Georgiana Bourne-Jones was raised in wealth and privilege only to have it all taken away from her when her parents spent all the money. Now, she makes her living as a professional butler in a fine hotel. Although her job requires her to cater to all sorts of hotel guests, Georgiana never experienced much in the way of excitement until she discovered a guest, Mr. Isherwood, murdered in his room with a steak knife that had her fingerprints all over it.

Shocked and scared, Georgiana ends up in Cole's room. After hearing her story, Cole decides the butler didn't do it but that the evidence is against her. Besides the fact that her fingerprints are all over the murder weapon, two days before he was murdered Isherwood tried to purchase sexual favors from Georgiana.

Since she dutifully reported this incident to her superiors, the police will know she had a motive for killing Isherwood. Bored and thinking that he needs a little adventure, Cole tells Georgiana he will help her. He convinces her to go on the run with him so they can figure out who really murdered Isherwood.

Maybe if this book had been written thirty years ago I could have bought into the premise. In this day and age, however, I couldn't understand why a bright, extremely well-educated, twenty-nine-year-old woman would be working as a butler. Not that there's anything wrong with being a butler, it just doesn't make much sense that with all the options available to educated women these days she chose to be a butler just because her friend, Crick, was a butler.

At first, the book seems to hint that there's more to the problems between Georgiana and her parents than just a loss of money. Her parents' former butler, Crick, tells Cole that Georgiana has been hurt and let down by her parents. I thought her parents must be cold and unfeeling people, and that Georgiana must have decided to turn her back on them and anything to do with her former way of life. But when Georgiana calls her parents to let them know she's all right, it's obvious they care for her.

And her parents aren't so destitute that Georgiana had to take the first job she could get in order to support them. In fact, it seems her parents aren't destitute at all, they just have to live like "ordinary people" instead of rich people. So how did Georgiana's parents hurt her and what's this women been doing for the past twenty-eight years of her life? It bothered me that these questions were never answered.

Then again, there's a lot to like about Lady's Man particularly if you like books where the hero and heroine are on the run, which I do. (Although, given this set of circumstances, deciding to run, from a legal standpoint, doesn't make a lot of sense.) In the beginning, this tale seems like textbook romance formula, actually it reminded me of many a contemporary Elizabeth Lowell book: strong alpha male meets the one lady he can't resist.

Toward the end, however, this book departs a bit from the formula. Cole starts behaving like a human being instead of just another alpha male. I very much enjoyed the ending of Lady's Man. The problem is that the more I felt that I knew and understood Cole's character, the less I felt I knew and understood Georgiana's.

--Judith Flavell


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