By the Book
I’ve read many Blazes and at this point most of the blurbs sound identical. The premise of By the Book, though, sounded like so much fun that I couldn’t resist picking it up. Previously, I’d read one Nancy Warren Blaze titled Live A Little! and remember it made me laugh, but also drove me a little nuts with its danger = sexual excitement theme, unbelievable lust = love “relationship”, and its often jerky hero. Fortunately, this book maintains the humor and eliminates the annoying aspects.
Shari Wilson’s mailman consistently mixes up her mail with her sexy downstairs neighbor, Luke Lawson. After several mail exchanges, Shari has developed a killer crush on Luke and, since he hasn’t made the first move, she intends to ask him out during their next mail switch. As she’s dolling herself up for the occasion she gets Luke’s latest package damp. With soggy package in hand, she heads to his apartment where they begin their flirting ritual. Just as she’s about to ask him out on a date, his package falls open and a book slips out. She glances at it and immediately wishes she hadn’t. The title screams “Sex for Total Morons — A How to Manual”. Embarrassed and mortified to discover the object of her fantasies is “a limp noodle in the sex department,” she slinks away.
Is this not one of the cutest setups ever?
Luke, of course, is the writer of the manual, but he doesn’t reveal that fact to Shari during their embarrassing encounter. He’s nearly as flustered as she and, after a little thinking, decides to use the opportunity to test out the validity of his manual by following its rules, step by agonizingly slow step, with his hot neighbor. After all, she already thinks he’s a dweeb, so he has nothing to lose, right?
Shari, a school teacher by trade, is still attracted to Luke despite his little “problem,” but she refuses to be his tutor while he studies the manual. The situation is just too weird for Shari. A candidly funny conversation occurs and she agrees to go so far as Chapter Four (where, he promises, nothing more than kissing is practiced) if he’ll pose as her devoted love slave at the “cheesy” wedding of her ex-boyfriend and the ex-best girlfriend who stole him away.
Though he’s thrilled she’s agreed to his plan, Luke soon realizes that if he sticks by the rules, and only dates her once a week, he’s just sentenced himself to at least a month without sex! He decides to speed up the dates by finding excuses to be near Shari, upping the tension considerably. After a few highly amusing mishaps, Shari truly believes that Luke is inept in the sack and longs to help him for all womankind. From the beginning the pair share a great camaraderie and are instantly comfortable together, but it’s during all of these “dates” and quasi-dates that they become close friends. Unfortunately, by this point, Luke is very much enjoying being “taught” and puts off telling her the truth about the sex manual, fearing everything will come to a crashing end (uh oh! bad move Luke).
The conflict here is slight to almost non-existent. There is the book, the fib, and the fact that Luke insists he will never marry. Ever. His dad, who bores of woman easily, is marrying for the fifth time and, of course, he’s just like his dad. Why? Well, his mom told him so (nice going Mom!). When Shari learns this, she’s saddened. They get along well, but she can’t comprehend a future with a man who’s certain he’s not the marrying kind. Despite the lack of conflict, the story zips along at fast pace because the characters are both very likable and have great chemistry. The story remains centered around Luke and Shari, without any extraneous subplots or obtrusive secondary characters wasting space.
The book suffers from some faulty pacing. The early part of the book is all teasing and the middle seems to be nothing but sex, which interrupts the narrative flow, such as it is. Intially sexy and fun, the love scenes became too much of a good thing and I found myself at one point thinking: “Please, keep your pants on and say something funny instead.” Had the author gotten a bit more exotic and/or kinky, the number of pages devoted to lovemaking in this section might have worked better, but it’s pretty standard stuff. Alas, this was not always a red-hot reading experience for me.
Still, how often do you come across an entertaining tale about two ordinary people falling in love? Not often enough, if you ask me. By the Book is a fluffy fantasy with lots of candid wit and silly fun and is sure to hit the spot if you’re in need of a little head clearing.