Two romance novels just in time for Valentine’s Day. By book reviewer Ruby Harris.

“The Pretend Wife” by Bridget Asher

What would life be like with the one who got away? Hailed as “a laugh-and-cry novel”, that’s “whip-smart, tender, an undiluted joy to read”, comes this big-hearted, funny, fiercely perceptive tale about a happily married woman and the little white lie that changed everything.

For Gwen Merchant, love has always been doled out in little packets; from her father, a marine biologist who buried himself in work after her mother’s death; and from her husband, Peter, who’s always been respectable and safe. But when an old college boyfriend, the irrepressible Elliot Hull, invites himself back into Gwen’s life, she starts to remember a time when love was an ocean.

What does Elliot want? In fact, he has a rather surprising proposition: he wants Gwen to become his wife. His pretend wife. Just for a few days. To accompany him to his family’s lake house for the weekend so that he can fulfill his dying mother’s last wish. Reluctantly Gwen agrees to play along, with her husband Peter’s full support. It’s just one weekend– what harm could come of it?

But as Gwen is drawn into Elliot’s quirky, wonderful family, his astonishingly wise and open mother, his warm and welcoming sister, and his adorable, precocious niece, she starts questioning everything she’s ever expected from love. And as she begins to uncover a few secrets about her own family, it suddenly looks like a pretend relationship just might turn out to be the most real thing she’s ever known.

SheSaid says: This is a fabulously entertaining book by Bridget Asher. Admittedly, the bright purple cover does scream “chick lit” but the love story is second to none! Easy-to-read, engaging and sweet this novel draws you into that lifelong quandary of wondering whatever happened to the one that got away.

Gwen is an easy-to-like character and it is not difficult to empathise with her over the issue of a harmless weekend to help out an old boyfriend. Elliot’s mother, sister and nieces are great characters in this quirky romantic comedy. Hollywood rumour mill is buzzing that Jennifer Anniston and Adam Sandler will play the main characters in the movie version of this book to be released in 2011. Hope they don’t ruin it!

“The Opposite of Me” by Sarah Pekkanen

Twenty-nine-year-old Lindsey Rose has, for as long as she can remember, lived in the shadow of her ravishingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named VP creative director of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of eighty-plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness.

But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully constructed life implodes. Humiliated, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her Prince Charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin while she furtively tries to piece her career back together.

But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.

SheSaid says: This novel by first-time author and accomplished journalist Sarah Pekkanen is a great distraction from our own mundane lives. One can’t help but be drawn into the complex relationship between Lindsey – the smart twin – and Alex – the pretty twin. This novel reminds us how important it is not to label children and may bring up some deeply buried feelings of sibling rivalry and jealousy. Easy to pick up and put down, this won’t win any literary prizes but does promise to entertain you.

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