April's Harlequin Duets are billed as romantic comedy, and I fervently agree. Conjure up movies with Hepburn and Tracy or Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. These two stories have the same fresh, lively feel, stories that are great to read on a nice spring afternoon. Or a crummy winter one. Or whenever you need a dose of lighthearted humor.
Bonnie Tucker's Going in Style needs to be read with the knowledge that the heroine's family is anything but normal. Their influence is what drives this storyline. Almost nine years ago, soon-to-be accountant Suzanne Mercer was given the same doomed message by a numerologist, a tarot card reader and a psychic. She's going to die on her thirtieth birthday and not a day before.
Most people would blow this off, but Suzanne's mother, among others, believes the predictions. Her belief has convinced Suzanne, too. So as her thirtieth birthday nears, Suzanne knows she doesn't have much time to convince next door neighbor and hunk, Dr. Griff Scott, that he needs to sleep with her, but only once.
Griff, who's relied on Suzanne's friendship for five years, is mystified by the changes in shy, sedate Suzanne. This man of science really thinks she's suddenly three cents short of a dollar. Even when she tries to convince him of her invincibility by standing in front of a truck, he's unconvinced. Rightly so, I'd say, because he's the one who pushes her out of the way of the moving truck.
When Suzanne's birthday comes and goes with her still in the land of the living, then the story takes a twist. Suzanne has borrowed against her life insurance policies. The problem is that she's borrowed money from loan sharks who just might end her life for her if she doesn't pay back the loan, with interest.
Suzanne's family might qualify for a comedic Twilight Zone family. Any family who stages a wake for their daughter, hires the Houston Philharmonic to play in shifts and has a funeral bier for their daughter to rest on as midnight approaches is a tad too weird. So, if you take this story with any seriousness, you're apt to regret it. Thankfully Bonnie Tucker has the ability to make the ridiculous seem plausible.
Lori Wilde's I Love Lacy also features a shy heroine, a hunky physician and a family that's a wee bit different. Lacy Calder's great-grandmother, grandmother and mother all believe in the ‘thunderbolt', that inexplicable feeling that happens when the Calder women meet their one true mate. It's never happened to Lacy until she looks up from her duties as a surgical scrub nurse and sees a new doctor, one who's visiting from
Boston. As he comes into the room, she's so struck by the ‘thunderbolt' that she falls off her stool. How can this shy woman who turns into a klutz around the man of her dreams possibly hope to convince him that she's his ‘thunderbolt', too?
The biggest obstacle to Lacy's plan is the good doctor himself. Bennett Sheridan sees Lacy and immediately thinks lusty thoughts. He knows, though, from his parents' miserable marriage, that lust doesn't last. He also knows that he'll only be in town a few weeks before he goes back to Boston. So he's got to avoid Lacy or be in big trouble.
His plans are on target until he goes to a local nightclub. What makes this plot line fun is that Lacy's friends have made her over for the night into a sexpot and taken her to the same club. They've psyched her up and told her that she'll overcome her shyness by pretending to be someone else. When Bennett sees her, he's surprised to see that the shy nurse has turned into a siren. How can he resist this fascinating enigma?
Those of you who are eternal pragmatists will unlikely see the humor in these stories. Bordering on the ridiculous, however, is not the same thing as wallowing in it. I had to keep telling myself that I was reading zaniness with reality pushed slightly aside.
These stories have enough spark and sexual compatibility between the characters to off-set the farcical feel. Both men resist and resist, but as any good trekie knows, resistance is futile. The sexual tension is layered, building gradually, making the reader as well as the characters anticipate the pleasure. The characters have enough goodness to gain them some empathy. I found enough enjoyment between the pages that I can recommend
this Duet delight.