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Beginner's Greek    by James Collins order for
Beginner's Greek
by James Collins
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

The main character in Beginner's Greek, Peter Russell, is a really nice young man who at first appears to be sort of a klutz. Fate smiles on him on an airplane - a boring routine business trip from coast to coast - when a pretty young woman sits next to him and turns out to be interesting, intelligent, fun to talk to, and just as attracted to him as he is to her. While trying to decide how to ask her for her phone number, Peter is delighted when she offers it to him, tearing a page out of her book to do so, with her name, Holly, written next to the number. He carefully folds the page, tucks it into his pocket, and walks her to the baggage claim area, happily conversing with her as they walk.

How wonderful, to meet someone so perfect on an airplane and to find that she is also interested in him! Holly invites Peter to her father's house for dinner. He is to call her, but when he looks in his pocket after getting settled in his hotel room, the page with the phone number is gone. He doesn't even know Holly's last name. Peter's distraught. How could he have lost the number? How could he have let her get away without learning her last name? But, of course, this isn't the end of the story, but just the beginning.

Love stories are so much fun when there are obstacles in the way of leads who seem perfect for each other. We know that Peter's obstacles would probably not exist if he weren't such a nice guy, such a good friend, and so diffident that once in a while we want to shake him. On the other hand, how wonderful to have a hero who really is decent and a heroine who is equally good, as well as being sweet and beautiful! Peter isn't the handsomest man in this story, and Holly is not the most beautiful woman, but she is pretty enough that Peter is hardly the only man to be attracted to her ... and therein lies his problem. Peter loves Holly so much that he is actually more concerned about her happiness than he is about his own.

Beginner's Greek is a delicious book. I had so much fun reading it that I didn't want to read too fast because then it would be finished, and I'd be done, and couldn't look forward to reading it any more. The plot's twists and turns carry you along from one misstep to another, and the characters - none of whom are as good as Peter and Holly - are an interesting collection of people. A couple are real villains, but most are just normal people, with good and bad qualities, who want to do the right thing but sometimes can't manage it. Is Beginner's Greek a fairytale? Maybe. But who hasn't sat down in an airplane seat and wondered who will be the stranger to join them for a few hours way up in the air above the humdrum of everyday existence?

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