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Ms. Simon Says    by Mary McBride order for
Ms. Simon Says
by Mary McBride
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

When advice columnist Shelby Simon is targeted by a letter bomber, her editor decides it's high time his star writer gets out of Chicago -- at least until the police gather more leads. Bad enough that Shelby's banished from her job, but when the powers-that-be decide to exile her with a full-time bodyguard watching her every move, it's the last straw. It isn't until the bomber strikes again that Shelby fully understands the risk. Neither she nor Mick Callahan is happy with their current situation but they're stuck with one another until the case is solved.

As the pair heads back to her hometown, Shelby and Callahan agree to put up with each other and decide that it's best to stay mum about the attempts on her life. Shelby's no sooner home than she discovers that her parents are separated and her older sister Beth's high school sweetheart has come back home after a long stint in the Special Forces. Being the country's #1 advice columnist, Shelby decides to do what she does best: root out the cause of her parents' estrangement and fix it, and also mend the rift between Beth and Sam Mendenhall. It was, after all, Shelby who advised Beth to head for college rather than follow through on her promise to marry Sam right out of high school -- a piece of advice she's long regretted.

In the meantime Mick has discovered that after two years of blaming himself for the death of his wife, Shelby has put the spark back in his life, one that grows brighter with each day he spends with 'Miss Know It All'. Ms. Simon Says is another breezy read by Mary McBride, yet too often it felt as if she spent more time setting up for the spin-off (Play It Again, Sam) than she did examining the relationship between the leads, Shelby and Mick. While both are likeable enough, neither characters is up to the author's usual caliber. Shelby often comes off as a bit too mulish and spends too much time trying to fix everyone else's problems rather than her own more pressing ones.

Mick too lacks the depth McBride usually infuses in her male characters. His transition from angry loner to a man head-over-heels in love was much too swift. The plot also had a few bumps and twists that didn't make sense. Why would Shelby head home and put her family and friends at risk? And why, even in the quiet little town of Shelbyville Michigan, wouldn't Shelby's parents have heard about the attempts on the life of their daughter, a nationally known columnist? But despite these flaws, Ms. Simon Says is good fun, worth a few hours of your time.

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