Wife For A Day
by Patti Berg, contemporary (1999)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80735-1
In Patti Berg's Wife For A Day, Samantha Jones, or just Sam, is really down on her luck. Her beloved mother passed away some time ago and she has borrowed money from a loan shark to pay for the funeral. Now she has a massive debt and her debtor is getting impatient. Worse, she has just been fired from her latest job as a seamstress. In need of money, she steals a sewing machine from her now ex-employer and marches determinedly to meet Jack Remington's order. After all, she hears that Jack Remington's a heavy tipper. He doesn't have to know she's now a rogue seamstress, and with luck, she can by the next day get some money to pacify the loan shark and survive until she finds another job.
Jack Remington is a millionaire (close to billionaire, really) who, despite his best efforts to hide it, is really a cowboy-at-heart. Uncomfortable with the trappings of genteel society, he makes a rare venture into Upper Society only to attend his dear sister Lauren's engagement party. Trouble is, his fiancee Arabella has just broken up with him, and Lauren is so eager to meet Arabella. Jack couldn't disappoint Lauren. When Sam sashays into his room waving her sewing equipment, voila! "Arabella" is here.
It is meant, on both their parts, to be one-night masquerade. However, we all know things never work out the way we want them to. Eventually Lauren stumbles upon "Arabella" one day and insists that this fiancee of her dear brother be her shopping buddy and best friend. When Lauren's latest in a string of bad relationships crumbles, guess who she insists Jack to bring over to indulge in a bout of sisterly sob-session?
I know, Counterfeit Spouses is a big no-no theme in my book. But I'm flexible. I'll make an exception for this book. No book has ever make me feel this warm and good in quite a while.
Jack is adorable. Gruff, a bit dense when it comes to reading a woman's mixed signals, he is nonetheless smitten with this sassy, mouthy woman who tries so hard to be strong despite her circumstances. Patti Berg makes a man sending a woman roses and a check of one thousand dollars one of the most romantic gestures I've ever read. Jack is befuddled as to his feelings about Sam, but he is not above seizing any opportunity to bring Sam closer to him. This man doesn't play fair, I assure you, but my oh my, he sure makes playing dirty a fine thing indeed, no siree. Awkward at expressing himself, Jack says romantic things in a hesitant manner that only makes him more adorable. He has lost a beloved wife before, and for once, he is not tortured or full of self-absorbed misery. He loves Beth, and now, yes, he loves Sam too. He also loves Beau, his son with Beth. There's no psychological hang-ups or pushing-Sam-away-because-she's-too-good-for-me nonsense. I'm not letting you get away from me he tells Sam ardently, fiercely, passionately, and I tell you, I've never envied a fictitious heroine so much in my life. Move over, Sam! I'm taking over. You were saying, Jack?
And Sam is also a fine heroine. She may be down on her luck, but she is always honorable and can even look at life with some optimism. Sure, she is a bit wary of Jack at first, but I'll give her credit - she's too smart to let a good man like Jack get away. Her guilt at lying to Lauren and Jack's ranch buddies is understandable, as is her growing reluctance to leave them all. Here is a lonely, weary woman who lives from the back of her Volks. Can you blame her for being swept away by a man who promises her happiness, comfort, companionship, and a family? In Jack's ranch, she feels at home, she feels as if she belongs for the first time in her life. As she becomes friends with Lauren and Beau, she finds herself torn between doing the right thing and following her heart's desires. Oh, and that opening scenes where she first meets Jack to tailor his tux... that's a classic scene! Any woman who asks a man if he dresses left or right and gets away with it can come over and have tea with me anytime! A strong and funny heroine, Sam gets my vote as the second best wife candidate for Jack (guess who is the first in line?).
Oh, and I must say something about dear Beau. His relationship with his estranged Daddy can skid right into TV Movie of The Week territory if the author's not careful, but under Ms Berg's fine hand, I actually sniffled and boo-hoo'ed into my Kleenex when towards the end Beau... oops, almost gave that away. When everyone gets their happy ending, I'm feeling so happy for them. When I closed the book, a part of me felt as if I'd just said goodbye to dear friends.
I don't know what is it that Ms Berg does, but in this book, every little, normal things and simple gestures like Jack holding Sam to him closely makes me go all warm inside. Romantic? Wife For A Day oozes romance in spades.
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