It Must Be Love
by Rachel Gibson, contemporary (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80715-7

It Must Be Love is a fun story, with a hero that's the epitome of charm and drop-dead sexiness and a heroine who manages to be kookily appealing without the irritant factor. So why on earth do I feel as if I've read this story a million times before?

There's no denying that Ms Gibson is a wonderful writer with great sense of humor. But she really need to find her own rhythm and stop trying so hard to follow the formula to stand out from her fellow romantic comedy authors. Oh yes, now I realize why It Must Be Love is so familiar - it reads like a hybrid of two Sue Civil-Brown novels, Chasing Rainbow (heroine) and Carried Away (hero). Hmm, the hero can also easily be Beau from Susan Andersen's Be My Baby (minus the commitment phobia). See what I mean about finding one's own voice?

Gabrielle Breedlove is a New Age kook who is not only impractical, she makes Annette Benning's character in Mars Attack! a veritable Hillary Clinton in comparison. When macho cop Joe Shanahan, played by a popular actor from the Romance Cop Circuit Rent Shop, sniffs around and accuses her of selling stolen goods out of Anomaly, the antique/bric-a-brac store Gabby runs with her partner Kevin, she is outraged. Since she's too kooky to be deceitful, the bad guy has to be... Kevin? But Kevin shares the same zodiac as Abraham Lincoln! He couldn't be!

But since it's either her shapely butt in the slammer or Kevin's not-so-shapely one, Gabby has the sense to listen to her lawyer and let Joe pretend to be her new boyfriend. Joe then would try to nail the illegitimate son of a female dog who is abusing poor Gabby's good charity.

False Engagement + Bodyguard Loves Me + The Cop Loves Me, His Suspect + The Macho, Gruff If Lovable Cop + The Kooky, Kind, Guileless, Flaky Meg Ryan Heroine = It Must Be Love = a complete hodge-podge of every well-worn (and proven popular) cliché known to romance reader since the dawn of the 1990. It's fun, Joe's a hot koochie who's adorable, and the love scenes are oh-mama-mia material (I wanna go belly-dancing!), but on the other hand, it's also predictable and unexciting. A paradox if there's one. Still...

Rating: 80

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