Buckle up. Enjoy the view.
Jake McKenna fixes planes, not people. Compared to an engine, humans are high-maintenance and unpredictable--which is why Jake has zero interest in indulging his sister's request that he play tour guide and rent-a-date to her boss's visiting stepdaughter. Still, Lauren Matthews is nothing like the uptight, reed-skinny workaholic he expected. She's curvy--deliciously so. Funny. Open. And convinced that there's more to her mother's hasty marriage to the local mayor than meets the eye.
Leaving her fast-track Washington career is the most impulsive thing Lauren has ever done--right until the moment she arrives in Cedar Springs, Colorado. Everything about sexy, enigmatic pilot Jake tempts Lauren to unleash her inner bad girl and let him take her places she's never been...even as her snooping around town provokes some extremely hostile reactions. At this altitude, losing your head is easy. Trusting your heart can cost you everything....
Kauffman's bland latest sends a D.C. workaholic to a cozy Colorado resort town to find sex and intrigue. When Lauren Matthews arrives in Cedar Springs, she is eager to learn about her mother's impulsive marriage to Mayor Arlen Thompson. Surprisingly for her, if not the reader, she also hooks up with sexy pilot Jake, and a whirlwind romance ensues. Romantic thrillers also require villains, and Kauffman tries to create one in Arlen, but he's never given a chance to be very villainous, while his marriage to Lauren's mother doesn't contain even a modicum of believability. Jake, meanwhile, fills the role as the affable hero. There are hints of menace, but the payoff isn't there. (Nov.)
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October 25, 2009
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Excerpt from A Great Kisser by Donna Kauffman
Jake McKenna was good at fixing planes. Not people. It was easier to rebuild a P-51 Mustang that hadn't been in the air since World War II than it was to endure a single phone call from his baby sister.
Ruby Jean could be an absolute doll--with other people. She didn't confide in other people. She didn't call every other day and cry her heart out with other people. Because somehow, she'd gotten it into her head that the only one who could solve her problems--and he'd never met a person who thought they had so many problems--was her big brother.
"Don't--" he cautioned. But it was too late. "Cry," he added, uselessly. "Ruby Jean, it's not your problem." It rarely was. Ruby Jean made a habit of taking the whole world on her tiny shoulders. Whether the world wanted to be there or not.
"But that's just it, Jake. It is my problem!"
"How is entertaining your boss's new stepdaughter suddenly your job? You're his personal assistant, not a cruise director."
"You don't understand, Jake."
And that was Jake's problem. He rarely understood anything where his little sister was concerned. Or, for that matter, women in general. Which was why, at the ripe old age of thirty-three, he was a happy, well-adjusted bachelor. "I'm sure you'll explain it to me." He wiped the sleeve of his ragged sweatshirt across his face, heedless of the grease smear now decorating both sweat shirt and skin, and sat on the overturned oil drum. He stared at the regulator that two straight days of work hadn't come close to fixing, and half listened to everything he never wanted to know about Ruby Jean's crisis du jour, which he had no intention of fixing.
"So, that's why it's so important that you do this. I finally have some room for advancement, Jake, and you know in this town that's not a small thing. I can't let this one little thing screw up my chances."
Personally, Jake didn't see where working for Arlen Thompson, even if he was the mayor of the mountain resort town of Cedar Springs, was a job worth holding on to. He thought the man was a bit of an egocentric who took full advantage of anyone who might help him and not require his help in return, and Jake's softhearted sister, who worked like a dog as his personal assistant, was near the top of that list.
But there wasn't a great deal of commerce in Cedar Springs, Colorado, that wasn't directly related to the ski resort, which was, more or less, the reason for the town's continued existence at this point in its long history. But Ruby Jean didn't ski anymore. Nor, thanks to Swing Thatcher, now the head of the resort ski school and the bastard who broke Ruby Jean's tender heart when they were both in high school, did she want anything to do with anyone who did.
Jake had encouraged her to take her dreams east, at least as far as the front range, and find a job in Denver or one of the suburb cities, where she could build the kind of future she desired. But Ruby Jean was all about family sticking close, and as they were the only family each other had, he supposed he was stuck with her and the drama that accompanied her. Not that he minded. Usually. He loved his sister and would defend her to the death to anyone else. But Jake had no intention of leaving Cedar Springs. He loved the central Rockies. Being surrounded by their snowy peaks did his heart and soul good. If Ruby Jean wanted to be within wailing distance, that was up to her.
Then she was sniffling, and the sniffling was threatening to turn into a full-blown sob, and his attention was pulled back to the drama.
"Just say yes, okay, Jake? I'm only asking for you to show her around a little. That's all."
"Wait, what did you just say? You want me to what?"
There was a long, wavery sigh. "You never listen to anything I say."
He couldn't really argue with her there. "RJ, you know I have a race to prepare for and Betty Sue here needs a hell of a lot of work."
"As she always does. I'm just asking one tiny favor."
"The difference is, now I have willing sponsors chomping at the bit, but they're demanding some kind of proof that we have a chance to really compete or they're taking their money elsewhere. And I have to keep the flying school going, or what's left of the roof over my head also goes. So, I really don't have time to do . . . whatever it was you just asked me to do."
"Her name is Lauren Matthews. She's your age."
"Wow, that old, huh?" The way Ruby Jean had said it made the woman sound positively prehistoric. But then, given RJ was eight years younger than him, anyone over thirty was ancient to her anyway.
Ruby Jean sniffled. "I'm just saying you might even have something in common. You could even like each other."
"Don't. I have enough problems at the moment. No match- making."
"I'm not, really. I know I promised to stop that, and I have. This really isn't that at all. According to Mayor Thompson, she's a bit of a workaholic--she works on Capitol Hill for a senator, which is so exciting I think, but doesn't leave her with much of a social life. She completely hates the idea that the mayor has married her mother, because, you know, they eloped after barely meeting and all. So, now she's finally coming out here to check him out, and he's all freaked out that he needs to make this great impression on her, probably because of his own political aspirations, and being as he's the mayor, he wants her to see how great Cedar Springs is, and--"
"Okay, okay, take a breath. What political aspirations? He's been mayor forever."
"Oh crap, I wasn't supposed to--just forget I said anything."
Jake was perfectly willing to do that. "I don't want to know."
"So, you'll help me then?"
Jake swore under his breath. "What am I supposed to do? I'm not the mayor's idea of a town ambassador. I can't believe this is his idea."
"Well . . ."
"RJ?" he said, a note of warning in his tone.
"See, there's this other thing that he sort of mentioned, that made me think of you and . . ." She trailed off. And sniffled a little more.
"Ruby Jean McKenna, what have you done now?"
"Don't get mad, okay?"
"Oh, I'm sure I will, just as I'm sure you'll cry huge crocodile tears, and then I'll feel like a schmuck, and then we'll make up because I hate you being mad and sad and upset, and I'll do whatever you ask me to, then you'll do it all over again."
"Good," she said, sounding amazingly better. "Then why don't we just skip over that part and you can just agree to do this one teensy little thing without giving me a hard time."
"Which brings me back to why me? Arlen is not my biggest fan--"
"Because you wouldn't fly that banner for him when he was running for re-election."
"I run a business. I'm bipartisan."
"He was going to pay you."
"So do my students, and I'm not pissing half of them and their families off by flying a banner for one side or the other. Besides, that was two years ago and he managed to get re-elected anyway. As he always does. No one really runs against him, Ruby."
"Well, here's your chance to make it up to him."
Jake clamped his jaw and fought the urge to yell. Or beat the wrench in his hand repeatedly against his forehead. One would have done about as much good as the other. "I don't have anything to make up for. Other than the fact that he's your boss, Arlen Thompson can kiss my ass."
Ruby Jean sighed. "Can we get back to my problem then?"
"Okay, and, remember you promised about not getting mad. So," she hurried on when he just growled, ". . . according to the mayor, he thinks Lauren is just so career driven that she's a little uptight, which is why he thinks she doesn't understand about the whirlwind courtship and elopement between him and her mom. He thinks if she gets out here and, you know, relaxes a little, and finds out how good it can be when you're not working every single minute of the day, that--"
"I get it, I get it. Thompson thinks she's a repressed man- hater who needs to get laid so she'll ease up on judging him for having sex with her mother. At least he married her. And did it ever occur to anyone that his stepdaughter might like what she does for a living and is perfectly happy dedicating her life to the pursuit of the happiness it brings her? And did anyone stop to consider that maybe her opinion of Arlen Thompson is right up there with my opinion of the man? And I'm not the least repressed, nor do I need to get laid, which brings me to my other point--"
"Jake, just listen a moment--"
"No, you listen, RJ. I love you, and I love that you like your job and want to stick with it. I'm proud of you, I am, and really happy that you seem to have found your niche. I think Thompson totally takes advantage of you, but you are good at what you do and I support that. But not only am I not the town ambassador, I am definitely not the town gigolo."
"But, you're single, and her age, and I've seen a picture of her and she's not even that bad looking. If you ignore the black- framed glasses. You don't have to, you know, sleep with her, I didn't promise that, I just--"
"You promised? What, exactly, did you promise?"
"Well, maybe promise is too strong a word." She rushed on. "I just sort of said that you might be willing to, you know, show her a good time. I didn't elaborate. And the mayor didn't ask me to. But it might be that he kind of has the impression that I meant you'd, you know, take her out. She just needs to understand a little more about romance and--"
"I am not romancing the mayor's stepdaughter. I like his wife. Charlene seems like a very nice woman. I haven't a clue what she sees in Arlen, but she appears to be an upbeat, positive woman, and if that can have any impact on him, then all's the better. But I have no intention--"
"If you like Charlene, then you'll probably like her daughter, right? Just . . . do this for me, will you, Jake? My job is important and this is so important to the mayor that if I can pull this off, I know he'll keep me on staff when he runs for--" She broke off abruptly. Very abruptly.
"When he . . . runs for what, RJ? Is that what this is really about? These 'aspirations'? Does Arlen have plans to try and move to the big pond of state politics? And maybe he could care less what his stepdaughter thinks of him, except that she has contacts in D.C. that might help? Because that sounds a hell of a lot more like the man I know than a guy who just wants his stepdaughter to like him."
"I don't know that. Really, I don't. I only know he wants to make a good impression and it's very important to him. And Charlene is a nervous wreck and I think it's affecting their marriage. Apparently Lauren hasn't spoken to her since shortly after she found out they eloped. That was six months ago now. Just . . . help us all out. Okay? One date, Jake. That's all I'm asking. Just . . . make it a really good one. Okay?"
Jake sighed. Then he swore. "I don't want to get tangled up in this."
"One date is not tangling. It's just a date."
"With your boss's politically connected stepdaughter."
"You can be charming. I know you. Just . . . do something fun."