Masquerade by Janette Rallison
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Pages: 217 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Clarissa Hancock married young and is currently a divorced, single mother of three-year-old Elaina. Clarissa has limited job skills, an unfinished college degree in family science, and is currently working multiple low-paying, part-time jobs to support herself and Elaina because her coldly malicious ex-husband has legally outmaneuvered her. Though he has granted Clarissa full physical custody of Elaina, he refuses to have anything to do with his daughter or provide more than the bare minimum of child support, forcing Clarissa to live a hand-to-mouth existence, lodged in cheap housing and shopping for Elaina's toys and clothing at garage sales.
When Clarissa applies for a job through an employment agency, she is shocked to discover that the job counselor assigned to her is an acquaintance of her ex-husband who attended her wedding and doesn't realize she is no longer married. He helps her get an interview to become a nanny for a movie star, one of whose requirements for the position is that the nanny be married so she won't be hitting on her boss.
Slade Jacobson has a four-year-daughter named Bella who is the product of his broken marriage with a gorgeous TV star who cheated on Slade and abandoned her daughter. Bella is a holy terror whose endless brushes with disaster have driven off countless nannies. She is Slade's top priority, but he is out of his depth raising her, and when he sees that Clarissa is an experienced mother with a warm, nurturing personality, and moreover is young, energetic and able to roll with the punches of raising Bella, he hires her on the spot.
Within days of hiring her, however, Slade decides he wants to take Bella with him on a business trip to Hawaii, and he asks Clarissa to come along and care for his daughter. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, an all-expenses-paid trip to paradise, with Elaina not simply tolerated by her boss, but a much-wanted companion for Bella. Not only that, Slade consistently treats Elaina with a degree of gentleness and affection that Elaina has never known from her father. How can Clarissa possibly pass up this offer?
Unfortunately, what begins as an innocent masquerade as a married woman spins out into a massive comedy of errors until, ultimately, not only is Clarissa's cushy job at stake, but her heart is very much on the line as she finds herself irresistibly falling for a boss who is far more than a pretty face.
I am a huge fan of Janette Rallison. I've read and added to my keeper shelf every one of her young adult novels. I stumbled across this book in the process of re-purchasing in Kindle format all of her books that I had originally bought in paper format. A bit of research into the history of this book led me to discover that it had originally been published by Rallison under the pseudonym Sierra St. James, along with several other adult romantic comedies:
Ms. Rallison recently re-released Masquerade as a Kindle edition with, apparently, some edits to the original edition, and hopefully she will be able to do the same for the other three St. James books in the near future.
As a Kindle edition, this book is outstandingly formatted, edited and designed with a lovely cover.
The story itself is an absolute delight! Over the years I've enjoyed thousands of romantic comedy novels, and this particular book is one of the best I've ever read. There are few authors who manage to create a book filled from beginning to end with humor based on verbal wit--especially clever repartee between the heroine and the hero. In those books that have any repartee at all, it tends to vanish within one or two chapters. Not so with this wonderful book. The exchanges of wit continue from beginning to end with countless laugh-out-loud moments. Other terrific sources of comedy are the many adventures of the intrepid Bella and Slade's numerous attempts to protect Clarissa from seduction at the hands of Landon, Slade's flirtatious, womanizing friend, who is a fellow movie star. Even the scenes revolving around the main antagonist frequently generate belly laughs.
One of the key elements of any romance is the hero, and Slade is absolutely wonderful, not merely a collection of sexy body parts, but a man of integrity and heart. Clarissa is also a strong, sympathetic heroine. She is determined, kind, intelligent, and has an appreciation of the absurdities of life that is one of the chief traits she shares with Slade. Beyond that, the subcharacters are clearly and colorfully drawn, each one distinct and contributing powerfully to the flow of the main plot of the book. An important feature of all of Rallison's work, heart-warming emotional connections among characters, abounds in this book as well.
By the way, this book is what is known in the romance industry as a "clean" or "sweet" romance. There is no swearing and no overt sexuality beyond mild kissing.
In every way possible, this book is an utter joy to read--another tremendous gift to her fans by a virtuoso author.