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Book CoverC2’s review of The Best of Friends by Susan Mallery
Contemporary romance published by Pocket 28 Sep 10

Remember being young and having a huge crush on an older, completely unattainable guy?  Someone who, if he even acknowledged your existence did it in the most offhand manor imaginable…since you’re practically strangers, really.  Still, you just know he’s the most smartest, most wonderful guy EVER.  Well, what if – years later – you meet that guy again and get a chance to get to know him and maybe even have a fling with him?  OMG!  The Best of Friends takes that premise and runs with it.

Our heroine is Jayne Scott.  Her mother died when she was in high school and Jayne went to live with her best friend Rebecca’s family.  Jayne had a huge crush on Rebecca’s older brother David.  He didn’t live with the family any longer so Jayne only saw David on the occasional visit but that’s all her crush needed to survive.  David only saw her as the quiet friend of his wild-child sister.

Years later, Jayne still lives on the fringes of the Worden family. David is off traveling the world and Rebecca is estranged from the family – though she and Jayne remain in contact – so Jayne helps out if the Wordens need her.  Mrs. Worden is often demanding of Jayne’s time and expects Jayne to drop everything to do whatever task she is assigned, with little or no thanks. While the older Wordens are abroad, Mrs. Worden instructs Jayne to open up the house because David is coming home.  Jayne is glad to help and hopes David might actually see her as a person.  Her hopes for making a good impression on him are doomed, however.  Just as he is walking in the door, she is flailing across the floor of the foyer, trying to hold onto a very heavy vase.  The vase survives the trip intact; Jayne’s wrist does not.  Although not the first impression she wanted to make, Jayne gets a chance to spend some time with David at the hospital and learns he is a genuinely nice guy.

David has come back home to settle down, work more regular hours, start thinking about starting a family.  Since he won’t let his mom help him find a house, Mrs. Worden assigns the task to Jayne.  David is willing to let Jayne accompany him as he checks out houses – on the condition that she not report back to his mom.  As they spend time together and get to know one another, David and Jayne are increasingly tempted to start a relationship – even though they know there is potential for things to go horribly wrong.  Even after they are romantically involved, David and Jayne know they can’t tell his family because they know the reactions would not be good.

My one struggle with the book was the portrayal of the “bad” characters – the people trying to keep Jayne and David apart – I know people are rude and petty and self-centered but sometimes it felt like I that was being hammered home a little too hard.  I mean…yes, I get that Rebecca is self-absorbed and needy;  yes, Mrs. Worden is a cold-blooded bitch only concerned with her social standing…let it go a little?  However, that sort of characterization isn’t uncommon in Ms. Mallery’s books and it doesn’t stop me from enjoying them.

The best part of the book was that Jayne and David are adults – not just by age but by actions.  They are self-aware and able to articulate their feelings.  Even when they are behaving in ways opposite to how they know they should act, they acknowledge their actions.  Jayne and David seem like real people – they think like real people, talk like real people, do things any one of us might do in similar situations.

Even toward the end of the book, when – because of the situations around them – it seems like a relationship between them would be too hard, David and Jayne ring very true.  Sometimes, as much as our romantic hearts don’t want to admit it, true love doesn’t conquer all.  Sometimes life has other things in store for us.  But will love win out for Jayne and David?  Ah, faithful reader, you must find that out for yourself.

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Grade: B-

Summary: In high school, studious Jayne Scott and wild child Rebecca Worden became unlikely best friends—a tie that endured even after Rebecca fled her family to live overseas. After Jayne’s mother passed away, she became part unpaid assistant, part surrogate daughter to the wealthy Wordens. But now, ten years later, Rebecca is coming home to L.A. to cause havoc for Elizabeth, the mother who all but rejected her. And Jayne finds herself pulled deeper into the Wordens’ complicated family dynamics—especially when Rebecca’s brother, David, returns as well.David is the man Jayne always wanted and knew she could never have. But when he gravitates toward her in spite of Elizabeth’s protests, her vow to escape the family’s shadow is put to the ultimate test. And as lies are shattered and true feelings exposed, Jayne must decide where loyalty ends, and love begins. . .

Read an excerpt