Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 0-8217-7118-3
Contemporary Romance, 2003
The plot makes me blink in bewilderment for a few seconds, but Kasey Michaels’s This Must be Love has one killer ingredient that makes this book a pleasure to read: it is fun.
Jane Preston is a goody-goody type who runs a daycare center. No, don’t run, people, she’s not that bad, serious. She may be on the uptight side in the beginning of the story, but she doesn’t try too hard to fight the fun when it comes all over her. Her more vivacious cousin Molly comes to her with a favor: she needs Jane to take her place in this platonic escort service thing Molly has signed up for. This isn’t an experiment in how far a desperate romance heroine will go to have fun but rather, Molly originally intended to use this stint as a ruse to get close to Senator Aubrey Harrison at a geek think-tank resort to learn if the Senator is going to run for President or not. (Molly’s a reporter, or she tries to be.) Molly realizes that the Senator is bringing his nephew along and this nephew knows (and hates) Molly. She needs Jane to do the Nancy Drew thing for her. In return, she will run Jane’s daycare for her, no problem (cross fingers). Unfazed by the possibility that sixty lawsuits will await her when she returns, Jane is only a little nervous as she packs her bags.
Meanwhile, John Patrick Romanowski, alias JP Roman the successful political crime novelist, is pretending to be a nerdy professor to bust Senator Harrison’s goody-goody facade. Yes, he’s Jane’s companion for this trip. He wears glasses and ugly trousers and voila, he’s a geek. Take them all off and he’s stud on legs. I make my husband take off his glasses and put on a pair of jeans he can no longer fit in since 1986 and sigh. Sometimes fiction is really better than real life.
These two encounter lots of hijinks, of course, but I’m pleased to say that I find most of them amusing rather than annoying. Jane is earnest and maybe a little staid, but she can have fun and has a sense of humor and self-awareness that allow her to laugh at herself as well as events around her. Sure, she thinks John is out of her league, but since she’s here to have fun, she never lets that bother her too much. Likewise, John opens up to Jane about his undercover stint early and they work together and with each other rather than he having to rescue her all the time from whatever silly things she get herself into. These people have a really great time falling in love, and as a result, I am with them all the way.
The plot is on the implausible side, but once it gets going, This Must be Love kicks into a swinging rhythm of snappy repartees, effective comedy, and two really fun characters having the time of their lives, so much so that I am willing to go along with the ride. It really must be love.