Smarmy personals ads. Daring declarations of love. Writer-for-hire Jaine Austen has penned them all. But when one of the love connections she made is broken up by murder, Jaine finds herself freelancing free-of-charge--and uncovering more than she bargained for...
No one seems to need her help more than geeky, gawky Howard Murdoch. His request is simple enough: a letter proclaiming his undying love for Stacy Lawrence, a gorgeous aerobics instructor. The fact that he's never actually met the woman gives Jaine pause--but she soon overcomes her misgivings, warms up her computer, and starts pitching woo on Howard's behalf. To Jaine's surprise, the letter is a success--the unlikely Romeo lands a date! But his triumph is, sadly, short-lived. On Valentine's Day, Howard finds Stacy bludgeoned to death with a Thigh Master--and is quickly named the prime suspect.
Upon hearing the news, Jaine is shocked. Sure, Howard's awkward, eccentric, and a tiny bit odd. But a murderer? That's hard to believe. Especially after a little sleuthing turns up a whole bunch of people who harbored less-than-loving feelings towards the svelte Stacy. But Jaine had better wrangle her clues quickly, before a crafty killer catches on--and puts a whole new spin on her ghost writing career...
"This book is laugh-out-loud funny. A real winner!" --Laurien Berenson.
Humor is the key ingredient in this slick debut by television comedy writer Levine. Freelancer Jaine Austen (her mother loved the classics but couldn't spell) makes a living writing love letters, personal ads and industrial brochures, but she never expected her work to involve her in murder. When geeky Howard Murdoch hires her to pen a letter proclaiming his love for gorgeous fitness instructor Stacy Lawrence, no one is more surprised than Jaine when Stacy agrees to go out with Howard on Valentine's Day. But Harold arrives for their date only to find that someone has bludgeoned Stacy to death with a ThighMaster. Feeling some responsibility for the hapless Howard, now the police's only suspect, Jaine starts digging. Stacy might have been beautiful, but most people disliked her. Elaine Zimmer wanted the corner apartment Stacy had just moved into, and the building superintendent seemed besotted with her. Then there's the volatile, married producer, not to mention the girlfriend Stacy stole him from. Handsome neighbor Cameron Bannick, a straight antiques dealer, piques Jaine's interest (she hasn't had a good date in a long time), and becomes a dashing Watson to Jaine's Sherlock. Though her life is in danger, Jaine never loses her sense of humor as the story zips along to an action-filled and surprising climax. Levine delivers the goods, and readers who appreciate a heroine with wry, self-deprecating humor will hope Jaine soon gets caught up in another murder.
Showing 1-3 of the 3 most recent reviews
1 . fun book
Posted January 27, 2010 by Diana , San Diegofun book. fun writer. Nice and relaxing and funny
2 . Quick and fun
Posted December 04, 2009 by Julieta , Orange County, CAI agree with the previous reviewer. Very entertaining and fun.
3 . Funny great Book!!!
Posted October 24, 2009 by Love Reading , KalispellFast read very funny and lots of turns in this book you will enjoy it!!!!
Kensington Publishing Corporation
May 31, 2003
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
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Excerpt from This Pen for Hire by Laura Levine
When I wrote that letter for Howard, I hoped it would get him a date. I never dreamed it would get him arrested for murder.
I suppose I should tell you how Howard and I first met. I'd just stepped out of the shower one unseasonably warm February day, when I heard a soft scratching at the front door, like a dog pawing to be let in. I slipped into my pink silk kimono and padded across the living room, fluffing my hair en route.
I opened the door and saw that it was not a dog, but a human being. One of my clients. A first timer. This one was a geeky guy with slicked-down hair and white socks, a veritable poster boy for pocket protectors.
He stared down at my welcome mat, clearly embarrassed.
"It's fifty dollars an hour, right?"
"That's right," I said.
"I've never done anything like this before," he mumbled.
"That's okay," I said, ushering him inside. "There's nothing to be ashamed of. Take off your jacket and relax."
No, I'm not a prostitute. I'm a writer, which in Los Angeles is often the same thing. My name is Jaine Austen (my mother is an Anglophile, and a bad speller), and I run a writing service out of my apartment called This Pen for Hire. Catchy, isn't it? I used to come up with catchy names all the time back when I worked in advertising, before I woke up one morning and decided I no longer wanted to spend the rest of my life writing stories that ended in the words "void where prohibited by law."
I write resumes. Letters. Brochures. And Personals ads. Lots of Personals ads. Maybe you've read my latest? "Rap Papa Seeks Acrobatic Mama."
I don't usually greet clients in a kimono, but Howard Murdoch was a full hour early for his appointment. He'd called me that morning, having read my ad in the yellow pages. He told me that he needed me to write a letter.
I left him perched on the edge of a chair in the living room while I went to change into my official work clothes: elastic-waist pants and a T-shirt.
I came out from my bedroom to find him still precariously balanced at the edge of the chair. One stiff wind and he'd be history.
"C'mon," I said, leading him into my office suite, otherwise known as my dining room.
"Have a seat," I said, gesturing to the dining table. Howard started for a chair, and I screeched in dismay.
"Hey! Don't sit on my Prozac." I scooped my cat Prozac off the chair Howard was about to sit in and tossed her in the kitchen. She glared at me balefully, then got revenge by leaping on top of the dryer, onto a pile of freshly folded laundry.
I turned to Howard and smiled my most encouraging smile.
"So. You said over the phone that you wanted me to write a letter for you?"
He blinked, as if hearing this news for the first time.
"You did want me to write a letter, didn't you?"
He picked at a scab on his knuckle. "That's right."
"What kind of letter? A consumer complaint? The airlines lose your luggage?" (I get a lot of those.)
"No." He was staring down at my hardwood floors, avoiding my glance.
"Look, Howard. I can't write a letter for you if you don't tell me what it's about."
He mumbled something to one of the grooves in my hardwood floor. It sounded something like "luvveter."
"What?" At last, he looked up at me.
"A love letter. I want you to write a love letter."
The words "You have a girlfriend?" shot out of my mouth before I could stop myself. "I mean, you have a girlfriend! How nice!" I added quickly, hoping he hadn't noticed my momentary lack of couth.
"Oh. Is it a boyfriend? Nothing wrong with that. Not at all."
"No, no. It's a girl. It's just that she's not my girlfriend. In fact, I've never actually spoken to her. But I know that I love her. With all my heart and soul."
Oh, jeez. I smiled woodenly. My first stalker.
"So. Tell me. Who is she, this love of yours?"
He whipped out a ragged newspaper clipping from his wallet and thrust it at me.
"Her name," he said reverently, "is Stacy."
I looked down at a picture of a lethal blonde in a black leotard. The caption read, "S. Lawrence Named New Sports club Aerobics Instructor."
"She teaches aerobics at my gym."
Guys are amazing, aren't they? You take your average geeky woman. Sure, she may fantasize about Tom Cruise, but does she actually expect to wind up dating him? Of course not. She knows she's going to wind up with a guy named Norm with love handles and hairy knuckles. Men, on the other hand, are totally delusional. I'll bet there are thousands of short, fat, bald guys convinced they could be dating Heather Locklear if only they knew her phone number.
I looked down at the blonde in the clipping, with her hard-as-nails eyes, deep tan, and perfect body. Poor Howard didn't stand a chance.
"Look, Howard. I'm not so sure it's a wise idea to write a love letter to someone you don't even know."
"It doesn't have to be a love letter, exactly. I want you to write her something that will make her want to date me."
You want a miracle? I thought. Go to Lourdes.
"How about I write you a resume instead? You happy at your job?"
But he wasn't budging. "I want you to write a letter to Stacy."
"Okay," I said, forcing a smile, "tell me a little about yourself."
He stared at me blankly.
"What do you do for a living?"
"I'm an insurance adjuster."
Ouch. Not much excitement there.
"I watch TV a lot."
"Well," he said, obviously saving the best for last, "Mom and I collect chopsticks from Chinese restaurants." I sighed deeply. I knew I had to turn down the job. It wouldn't be fair to take Howard's money for something I knew would never work out. If there's one thing I pride myself on, it's my integrity.
"Look, Howard. This isn't going to work."
"I'll pay you triple your usual fee." I reached for my pad and pen.
"Is that Stacy with a 'y' or an 'ie'?"