She's Got Mail!
by Colleen Collins, contemporary (2000)
Harlequin Duets, $5.99, ISBN 0-373-44105-3

Forget Me? Not!
by Darlene Gardner, contemporary (2000)
Harlequin Duets, $5.99, ISBN 0-373-44105-3

This Harlequin Duets #39 showcases two stories that make strange bedfellows. Colleen Collins' She's Got Mail! tries a bit too hard to be funny, while Darlene Gardner's Forget Me? Not! doesn't even try. Interesting.

Colleen Collins' latest screwball comedy She's Got Mail! is so busy I have no idea how to give a summary of the story. Let's just say editorial assistant Rosie Meyers and stuffy lawyer Ben Taylor rent the same parking space and as a result have to compromise over who will use the space on what day. At the same time, Ben has a unique problem: his ex-wife and his ex-fiancee are best friends, and worse, the ex-fiancee is his receptionist. And every time ex-wife Meredith breaks up with a beau, she comes in and rearranges Ben's furniture and decor according to the theme of her ex's job (cowboy decor for that cowboy, red bricks for that bricklayer, etc).

Feeling stifled by his own inability to tell the women to back out of his life, he writes to Mr Real, a columnist for Real Men. Unknown to him, the real Mr Real has just eloped with a stripper, and Rosie is the new Mr Real. Uh oh. So as they fight over parking space and exchange love relationship advices, sparks fly.

Thing is, help! I can't breathe! There's Meredith's decor mania, the ex-fiancee Heather's incompetent receptionist duties, Rosie's inability to get to work on time, Rosie's forgetting to return Ben's movie star mugs, Ben's missing his golden retriever... and oh God, here comes Rosie's overprotective brothers! I'm suffocating over all this activity. The romance is pushed to the background in a few cursory scenes, and everything else is just plain sitcom moments.

I'm okay with it if the humor isn't monotonously focused on Rosie's irritating inability to be punctual (someone should buy her an alarm clock or hit her in the head with a filofax) or Ben's inexplicable ability to tell the ladies to back off (someone buy him a fly-swatter).

She's Got Mail! has its moments, but in the end I am poleaxed in exhaustion just trying to keep up. Water, water!

In a refreshing change of pace, Darlene Gardner's Forget Me? Not! has me dozing, not really wanting to keep up. It's about Amanda Baldwin suffering post-affair blues after a proper, calculated love affair breaks apart just before the wedding day. Ten years down the drain - oh the pain. But a nice guy, Zach Castelli, cheers her up after overhearing her and her then to-be-ex breaking up. They end up in bed together. Oops. You know these stupid women of bad contemporary romances - one night stands are Big Things, next to World Peace and Cure for Cancer as Events of Momentous Deliberation.

Hence Amanda wrings her hands and panics. Oh god, she, like, let some man do her without rubber and worse, without ten years of boring psychoanalyzing! She's a slut! Oh no!

Zach waits for her, but Mandy is now torn. The ex drops hints that he may want her back, so she wrings her hands some more. The cheerful fun guy or the stuffy bore? What do you think? Whatever you think, Mandy doesn't think likewise. In fact, I doubt she thinks. As she moans, worries, commiserates, and screams - "I don't want fun! I want order! I am bored! Why is order so boring! I want fun! No, I want order! Oh, oh, oh, oh!" - I wonder why the heck am I even complaining about Colleen Collins' romance-in-Dramamine. This one is romance-with-sedatives.

At least She's Got Mail! have some rather inventive moments, even if the humor is off this time around. Forget Me? Not! is more leisurely and tranquil, but the heroine is a klutzy peahen.

Rating: 68 for She's Got Mail! and 50 for Forget Me? Not!

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