Between the Lines
I’m a sucker for match-making romances, so when I found Between the Lines, I thought I’d pick it up. And while it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped after hearing raves about author Angela Benson, it was a nice evening’s read.
Our match-makers are two widowed fathers. Mathias Sanders owns a small Alabama daily with his daughter Eleanor. He and old friend Randolph Mason, who has built up a publishing empire, want to see Eleanor get together with Randolph’s son Jake, so Jake is coming to small-town Lamar, ostensibly to arrange a merger between the paper and the conglomerate. Eleanor is a nudist at heart who hides her sensuality from the world like the stereotypical librarian – conservative suits, high-necked blouses, and a severe bun. Jake has that rich, playboy aura around him. When he spies the behind of a luscious woman in a thong by the Sanders’ pool, his curiosity is aroused. This can’t be prim and proper Eleanor, so who is this beauty?
Unfortunately, it is Eleanor, and when Jake doesn’t realize his error, she’s insulted. She’s got Jake’s number. He’s not only out to gobble up her newspaper, he’s also a love-’em-and-leave-’em opportunist.
Jake parries and Eleanor thrusts, or is it the other way around? These two fence with each other, at work and at home, where Jake is staying as a guest. When he realizes Eleanor was the thonged beauty, things really begin to heat up. The two fathers couldn’t be happier.
Added to the mix are Eleanor’s best friend, Megan, and ace-reporter Carl. These two are at each other’s throats constantly, have been so for years. Jake decides he can get closer to Eleanor by convincing her to pretend to be a pair so that they can get Megan and Carl together. His plan works, and soon, where there were none, now there are two pair. But a lack of communication and trust convinces Eleanor Jake really is an opportunist; how can he convince her otherwise?
There are many small touches that work well here, such as the humor in a waitress named Flo at Mel’s Diner, an old computer that eats stories, and the two old friends scheming to get their children together. But other things didn’t work nearly as well. Before it was strongly established that Eleanor loves being nude, there’s a scene where she removes her bra and panties, then sits down to make a phone call. It should have worked to establish her nudism, but instead seemed jarring and odd. Later, as a prelude to a love scene, Jake whispers some incredibly purple prose to Eleanor. “Tell me what you’re feeling. . . Everything tells me we’d be good together. From the gentle sway of your hips when you walk, to your puckered nipples that greeted me at the door. . .”
Another quibble was how in touch with their feelings the two fathers were. While I enjoyed Randolph and Mathias, they were characters only a woman would create. And while I thought Jake’s idea of acting as matchmaker to get Carl and Megan together so he could get together with Eleanor was good, a little of Megan went a long way. Unfortunately, there was more than a little of Megan in the book, and her trying to catch Jake and Eleanor in the act so many times was grating.
Still, Between the Lines kept my interest and I read the book in virtually one sitting. Author Benson seemed to get the business details right, and there was just enough allusion to race to satisfy a reviewer who thinks culture should be discussed in a multicultural romance. While many times the business aspect of a romance seems to interfere with it, Benson got it just right; the Black family magazine Eleanor and Jake have dreams of creating was the perfect metaphor for their growing love.