by Maggie Shayne and Marilyn Pappano, contemporary (2000)
Silhouette Intimate Moments, $4.50, ISBN 0-373-27103-4
Who Do You Love? is a collection of two stories by Maggie Shayne and Marilyn Pappano, linked by a common theme: two people are falling in love with each other while mistaking each other as someone else. I am half afraid these sort of stories would be given the Special Contemporary Category Touch, i.e. lots of hand-wringing, ditzes, virgins, secret babies, and heroines feeling guilty.
Thankfully, it's not that bad. I even find Maggie Shayne's story, the last half of it, pretty enjoyable.
Maggie Shayne's Two Hearts is loosely a role-reversal take of that Sandra Bullock-Bill Pullman charmer While You Were Sleeping, only this time around, she thinks he is a security agent when in fact he is an undercover cop. While undercover, Jack McCain (by the way, the book calls him "lawman", I guess it sounds much classier than "cop") rescues an innocent bystander, the old geezer Harrison Phelps.
In a hospital where everyone is panicking over the old man Phelps, Jack gets mistaken as the security expert savior of Old Men, and naturally, the daughter Grace falls for him and he her. But dare he tell her that he is just a cop - sorry, lawman?
Go figure. He can't. So she starts thinking he has a lover somewhere and starts her panic attack. Thankfully things get blown open early and how they smooch things over make a much better read than the sugary, irritatingly muzak first half. When Grace isn't trying too hard to be Miss Porcelain Virgin-Madonna Princess, she actually becomes (almost) human and even likable. Same with Jack. During the few brief moments when the author isn't trying too hard to make them jump through loops to be yet another Silhouette Cop/Virgin couple, they shine.
For wasted opportunities and a nice second half of sweet kisses and koochie-moochie lurve, Two Hearts is well worth a read.
But Marilyn Pappano's A Little Bit Dangerous doesn't even offer the main characters Chance Reynard and Mary Monroe any chance to even be remotely human in their behaviors and motivations. Once they had a very mad affair, but undercover agent (again, I bet this is a classier term than "spy") Chance walks out on her long time ago. For her own good, of course. Now Mary is back into his life when she starts work in a riverboat where Chance himself is stationed. Both have secrets, but hey, that don't stop the clothes from flying across the bedroom.
But A Little Bit Dangerous is toothless and ultra-predictable, from the reason why they first break up to how they get back together and play tonsil tennis all over again. Mary behaves just like I thought she would, so does Chance (and Chance is annoying in his arrogance too). There are some very, very slight hint of genuine emotion in the undercurrents of déjà vu in this story, but I have to really, really look.
At one point, Chance muses that with her in his life, he is never bored. Well, at least someone's having his daily jollies.
Who Do You Love? is a standard affair, standing apart from its sister Silhouettes and Harlequins only because it is baby-free, doesn't go overboard on the virginity issue, and it doesn't have a stupid title. It's average, but thanks to its short length, it's also very readable.
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