My One And Only
by MacKenzie Taylor, contemporary (2002)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81937-6

Now that Jayne Ann Krentz is holding court in the Pits of Suckdom, readers looking for romances with couples who understand and talk to each other, tortured millionaire CEOs, loyal heroines, and family values can do worse than to pick up MacKenzie Taylor's fabulous debut, My One And Only.

I'm not saying that MacKenzie Taylor is a clone of Jayne Ann Krentz. Ms Taylor handles mystery and romance in a mix better than Ms Krentz ever could. It's just that the plot of this story gives me flashbacks to Ms Krentz's Family Man is a superficial way, and the chemistry and understanding between the two main characters, the misunderstood hero estranged from the rest of his clan, the heroine who slowly persuades him to take over the responsibilities - ah, the memories.

Ethan Maddux is the illegitimate son of Harrison Montgomery, and those two haven't talked since Ethan walked out of Harrison years and years ago. It's a complicated back story involving autocratic grandfathers, shrewd grandmothers, and other family mamadramas. Harrison Montgomery is tettering at the chasm of bankruptcy, however, and Abigail "Abby" Lee decides that asking Ethan to help his estranged daddy may be the best way to go.

Abby is a loyal employee of the Montgomeries, because when her parents were murdered and she had to take care of her sister, Harrison employed her and did more than just give her a job. In her eyes, he saved her and her sister. But that doesn't mean that Abby is a Daddy-adora Barbie doll. She is intelligent, as is evident when she meets Ethan and to my delight, cheerfully punctures all the stereotypes about Daddy-loving heroines. She has seen a shrink and she doesn't need a Daddy in her life, no thanks. She reevaluates her opinions of Harrison after hearing Ethan's side of the story and decides that maybe there are two sides to the story.

Ethan is a very Krentzian hero, with baggages and the instant lust he has the moment he sees Abby. For her, he will soon reevaluate his priorities, listen to his father's side of the story, learn that family is the way to go, save the day, and get the brainy gal. Ethan and Abby communicate with gusto, and they have this fun, charming chemistry between them, with Ethan's rather obsessive undercurrents providing the much needed darkness to balance the sunny facade of the story.

The secondary characters are also very well-drawn and charming, again recalling the best of Krentzian family members, kooky aunts, and smartass teenagers.

I know, I'm doing MacKenzie Taylor no favors by comparing her to Jayne Ann Krentz so often. My One And Only however breaks my almost-romance-slump, hits me in the guts, and darn if it doesn't make me smile and feel good. This is a romance that's just that - a romance between two intelligent, very likeable characters surrounded by funny, charming secondary characters and a decently handled mystery elements. If Ms Krentz has rest her laurels, who knows, maybe Ms Taylor can take the laurels and do a further one on Ms Krentz. If this is the start of Ms Taylor's plans for world conquest, well, My One And Only is right on track.

Rating: 92

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