Desert Isle Keeper
Mr. Perfect (#44 on our Top 100 Romances List)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
originally published on August 10, 2000
What does it take to finish a book in one sitting? First, you need the time. Second, you need a book you just cannot put down. Last Saturday, I discovered I had both. Linda Howard’s foray into big-time romantic comedy has paid off, and how. Mr. Perfect is a terrific read, and I’m nearly giddy with delight. You will be too, right from the very first page.
Jaine Bright and her three friends, Luna, T.J., and Marci, go out for dinner one Friday night after work, and get a little tipsy. They discuss men (of course). After dating lots of jerks, they wonder what qualities the perfect man should have (don’t we all?). Getting in to it, they begin making a list. Faithful. Yes. Nice. Absolutely. Dependable. Certainly. Well, the list goes along just fine, until they get to physical attributes. Oh, baby. That’s when the giggles begin, and the ruler comes out.
The next day, through happenstance, Marci leaks the list and before you know it, it’s National, that’s right, National human interest news. Some people (women), love The List. Others (men), hate it. One person in particular, loathes it enough to kill.
In the meantime, Jaine has bought a new house and is having trouble with her perpetually irate next-door-neighbor, a man she assumes is a drunken idiot. Detective Sam Donovan is no drunk, and no idiot. When tempers flare between these new neighbors, so does passion and some of the wittiest, funniest, bawdiest, sexiest dialogue I’ve read in a long time.
Sam and Jaine are hot for each other from the minute they meet (when she knocks over his garbage can on her way out the driveway). The first half of the book is devoted to Jaine and Sam trying to be rational about their mutual attraction, but, thankfully for the reader, it’s impossible. Their first kiss, near-miss love scene is one the sexiest I’ve ever read. It involves a car washing, a spray hose, an angry man, a feisty woman, and when it’s over … everybody’s wet (including the reader).
Things take a serious turn when one of the four ladies of The List is found murdered. Could somebody have been angry enough to be stalking its composers? You bet. The last third of the book deals with finding and stopping the killer before another life is lost. When Jaine’s house is ransacked and ruined, Sam steps in and makes it his business to protect her.
Sam is a wonderful hero. Smart, smart-mouthed, big and rugged and handsome, he has erotic urges for Jaine immediately. He’s also aware enough that she’s special enough to not retreat from when he realizes he has finer feelings for her. Their feelings for one another are so strong and funny that Sam’s proposal of marriage begins with an uttered epithet. Sam is one of Linda Howard’s best heroes ever: confident but not controlling, arrogant but not overpowering. As for Jaine, she just as smart-mouthed as Sam and gives as good as she gets, sometimes before she gets it. The frank sex-talk between them is very funny and enormously entertaining.
Added to the mix is a very fine secondary cast of characters, each of whom has problems of his or her own. Some sweet, geriatric neighbors, a little auto-erotica (Jaine and Sam like classic cars), Jaine’s efforts to curtail her profanity by paying fines each time she makes a slip, a haughty cat named BooBoo, and a snotty older sister named Shelly who knows how to come through when the chips are down, all add to the humor and suspense to make Mr. Perfect a treat of a read that you won’t want to miss.
My only problem with the book was that it was over too soon. Oh, how I wanted more. I want another one just like it. In Mr. Perfect, Linda Howard has created exactly the type of romantic suspense readers are looking for: lots of romance, sensuous love scenes, a hero and heroine you can’t help but like, and a mystery to top it all off. I hope this is a trend Ms. Howard intends to follow for a long, long time. The language is frank, the loves scenes are steamy, and the book comes together, well, dare I say it … perfectly.
LLB: Editor Ellen Micheletti also loved this book; it’s a keeper for her as well. She called it “funny, sexy, suspenseful, and practically perfect.” When Ellen read the scene where the four friends were creating The List, she was “glad she was not reading in a public place. People would have wondered why this crazy woman was laughing and blushing at the same time.” In particular, she adored Jaine – now her favorite Howard heroine. She said, “If you are expecting one of her silky little things who moons around and doesn’t eat – go read An Independent Wife.” Sam is now Ellen’s favorite Howard hero too. Like all her heroes, Ellen said, “he is masculine to the max and so sexy he is almost illegal. Sam is also smart as a whip and the perfect match for Jaine. When she sees him one morning though his window when he is naked, half asleep and standing in profile in front of the refrigerator she falls in lust – big time.” Ellen added, “I can’t remember when I have laughed as hard as I did during the car washing scene in this book. When Sam and Jaine do give in to the tension that has been consuming them – they give off enough heat to melt all the icebergs in the sea.” However, “The second half, is much more serious. The identity of the killer was a big surprise to me – I had not seen it coming at all.”