By Lezlie Patterson McClatchy-Tribune News Service
``Not Another Bad Date,'' by Rachel Gibson; Avon Books (2008), $7.99 (paperback) ___
For every woman who has had her heart broken by her first love, this one is for you. For all the times you dreamed of the guy bumping into you years later, being dazzled by your beauty, charm and success and regretting more than anything in his life that he let you go. ... ``Not Another Bad Date'' is for you.
Adele is the last in her small group of writer friends to find her soul mate. (And we've read about all the others in previous books.)
Or perhaps she did find her soul mate while she was in college, and lost him.
Zach was a college football star, and Adele was on the outer fringes of popularity. Still, after he broke up with his head-cheerleader girlfriend (a snob who had made Adele's life miserable in high school) he was drawn to
Adele and they embarked on a brief, yet passionate, affair.
Until the ex-girlfriend told Zach she was pregnant.
So being a good Southern gentleman, Zach married his ex. And broke Adele's heart.
Fourteen years later, Adele _ who has inexplicably had three years worth of really bad dates _ comes back to her small hometown to help her pregnant sister and teen-aged niece. And discovers her niece's best friend is Zach's daughter.
Like most of Rachel Gibson's books, this one is a lot of fun. And this time, part of that fun comes from an ``otherworldly presence.'' One that is not only responsible for Adele's bad dates, but whose mortal self was responsible for her heartbreak.
That would be Devon, Zach's deceased wife.
Devon wasn't the nicest woman on Earth, and is given a couple of chances to redeem herself and earn a spot in heaven. She'd rather torture Adele though, even though her worst efforts turn out well for Adele and Zach. Eventually.
When Adele discovers the parentage of her niece's friend, she panics and tries to escape before seeing Zach. She had been at the hospital all night with her sister, had a coffee stain on her sweater and suffice it to say didn't look her best.
But she doesn't escape, and as she watches Zach approach she thinks, ``At one time or another, every woman alive fantasized about running into an ex and making him sorry he'd dumped her. ...she'd had them a time or two about Zach Zemaitis, but she'd always pictured herself sizzling hot, not looking like crap with coffee down her sweater.''
Adele resists Zach as long as possible, certain that he will shatter her heart again if she gets too close. And, because of the machinations of Devon, he does. But he comes to his senses and gives Adele the ending she deserves.
HOW IT STACKS UP
Overall rating: 4 of 5 hearts. It's just pure fun to read a Rachel Gibson book, and ``Not Another Bad Date'' is no exception.
Hunk appeal: 10-plus. Even though Zach shattered Adele's life years before, he did have a compelling reason. And he has his moments when Adele returns to his life. He's patient, thought he does jump to a wrong conclusion. Still, that just sets him up to be dashing and romantic at the end.
Steamy scene grade: XXXXX. Pretty much defined their entire courtship.
Happily-Ever-After: Very good. For every woman who has dreamed of having a man chase her across the country to apologize, this one is for you.