Desert Isle Keeper
A Nice Girl Like You
A Nice Girl Like You is a rich, densely-written story about two likeable characters. It’s what I always hope for when I pick up a series book but all too rarely find. Samantha (Sam) Jagger, a freelance journalist in Toronto, meets acclaimed war photographer Ben Harris after responding to a newspaper ad placed by Ben’s “Desperate Mother” Miranda. Ben rejects all the women Miranda tries to set him up with, and Miranda thinks that by using Sam as a decoy, Ben will give her candidate a fair chance. What nobody expects is that Sam and Ben will hit it off. Ben in turn asks Sam to decoy for him, pretending to be his girlfriend so Miranda will stop ruining family dinners by auditioning dates. Although Sam is on the brink of engagement to another man, she agrees. The warmth of Ben’s family fills a void left when her parents died in a plane crash, and besides, as long as she doesn’t act on the chemistry she felt at dinner, she won’t be betraying her boyfriend. Right?
The premise can’t help but sound goofy when condensed, but then again, so many of the best screwball comedy setups do. It succeeds in context because Sellers doesn’t take it too seriously. Plus, Sam and Ben have such wonderful chemistry together that I couldn’t blame them for wanting to see each other again. They make each other laugh, and this friendship gives a solid foundation to their strong mutual attraction. Although Sam feared that she only felt lust for Ben, I never did. It’s a nice change from books where lust is all I can detect.
I’m a sucker for stories in which the world of the rich is cold and bloodless (maybe it makes me feel better about the economy!) so I enjoyed the contrast between Ben’s hot intensity and Sam’s glacial, self-absorbed boyfriend, the wealthy Justin McCourt. Justin is pretentious and self-centered, but he’s believable, as is lonely, family-hungry Sam’s loyalty to their relationship even after she realizes that it’s not a good one. This is a partial spoiler but I feel I should mention it, because it might be upsetting for some readers: Justin’s sister attempts suicide but does not succeed. I felt that her attempt was not trivialized and sensitively handled, and that it contributed effectively to the story.
Obviously, A Nice Girl Like You isn’t pure comedy, but it has very funny moments. Apart from her bad habit of over-using dialogue tags (“carolled” is a particular weird favorite), Sellers is a clever and witty writer. When Sam runs late for their apartment hunt, Justin waits in the car: “he wasn’t listening to the news but sitting in silence… He was annoyed at being made to wait, so he made sure he suffered fully.” Don’t we all know that person?
As mentioned, the book is set in Toronto, and Sellers does give the book a Canadian feel, with Thanksgiving in October and snow by November. Although the book takes place across the winter holidays, and my copy of the original from the Silhouette Yours Truly line has a fireplace with Christmas stockings on the cover, it’s not a Christmas-centered book, and could be read at any time of year.
Overall, A Nice Girl Like You is a warm story with intensity and sizzle but no histrionics. If you’re looking for a lively read and a believable HEA for a couple you’d like to have as friends, then this is a book for you.