by Ellie Marvel, contemporary (2009)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-851-2
How sneaky, it is only when I do my usual Google search to figure out who Ellie Marvel is do I realize that this is the new pseudonym for the author who had previously published under the name Jody Wallace. Unlike the romantic fantasy stories Ms Wallace had written for this publisher in the past, Ellie Marvel's What She Deserves is straight-up contemporary romantic comedy with the heat turned up a little.
It's the Ten-Year Reunion of Tallwood High School’s Class of '98 gathering, and like everyone who isn't super accomplished, rich, and free from cellulite during such events, our heroine Winifred Sampson has to deal with the butterflies in her stomach as she gets ready to meet all those old faces from her high school days. Okay, so she was once a nerd and had all the baggage that came with that label, but she's now gorgeous, sexy, and confident. Bet that quarterback she had a crush on back then will give her a second look now, heh. In fact, Winnie is determined to make Chase McKnight look twice and then some this time around.
Okay, so the first guy she meets on her way to the ballroom is Peter Duvall, her high school rival. There could only be one nerd left standing at the end of the day, after all. Okay, that gangly nerd had grown up to become a gorgeous hunk of a lawyer (read: he's loaded, girls). Who cares. She has Chase on her radar tonight.
I have high hopes for What She Deserves because I always enjoy a fantasy involving revenge of the nerds. However, this story is not exactly what I expected at first. For one, while Peter gets a comparatively warm reception because he's hot, poor Winnie for some reason initially becomes a target for catty bitches and ape men who specialize in molestation of unwilling females. When Winnie feels embarrassed, I can only wonder why she doesn't just walk out. Is shagging a high school crush really worth all that humiliation? In an age of Facebook and invasion of personal privacy, I can't imagine that gorgeous Winnie can't track down any hot bloke she has a crush on and ask them out.
In the end, yeah, so she gets Peter. Big deal. In this story, I'm told that Peter had the upper hand back when they were competing to be the high school brain, and given that he has a warmer reception at this reunion, Winnie getting him seems suspiciously like getting a consolation prize for having a lousy time at a party. To top things off, the whole story is quite stereotypical, filled with stock characters I've come across many times in stories of this kind.
At the end of the day, What She Deserves feels a little too contrived and familiar for me to give this my two thumbs up. Maybe one thumb up, for the clean readable prose and decent pacing.
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