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Friends with Benefits: A Nannies Novel    by Melody Mayer order for
Friends with Benefits
by Melody Mayer
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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*   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In Friends With Benefits, Melody Mayer pans her vid camera into the second Nannies installment, giving definition to the new story by weaving in events of the first book. Three teen girls with different backgrounds and goals become friends in service as nannies to children of rich parents in Beverly Hills. They have formed a nannies agency to recruit other teens for parents in need of nannies. Sometimes their efforts bomb, with nasty repercussions.

Lydia Chandler, whose parents gave up their wealth to work in the Amazon jungle, missed civilization as she knew it and the finer things (that is, things that wealth will buy). She was rescued when her ESPN commentator Aunt Kat and the latter's partner Anya offered Lydia the opportunity to return to the States as a nanny to two children - who are slightly out-of-control, with low self esteem, and structured, rigid activity schedules. Lydia stealthily borrows Kat's and Anya's clothes, and is interested in Billy Martin, a Los Angeles Arts Institute student, interning with designer Eduardo L. Parsons. Lydia is determined that Billy will be her first.

Kiley McCann is attracted to overnight star Tom Chappelle, as is her aggressive boss - diva Platinum, a drug-addicted rocker and mother of two. Kiley monitors Platinum in her drug states, ranging from Green to Yellow, Orange, and Red zones. The colors are gauges Kiley uses to watch how high Platinum gets, as the nanny immediately safeguards the children under her protection when her boss's state gets into the danger zones. Kiley's dream is to earn enough money to enter Scripps Institute of Oceanography, but her hopes are shattered when one of the children gets into mom's drugs and a 911 call is made.

Esme Castenada has been playing two sides of the fence, intimate with her employer's older son Jonathan as well as with her long-time boyfriend Junior. Mrs. Goldhagen voiced strict orders that Esme not entertain males in the cottage she lives in on the property. Esme's charges are Weston and Easton, adopted twins from Colombia, and Esme speaks Spanish to them. Jonathan never takes Esme anywhere public, so is he using her? A thorn in Esme's side is Jonathan's ex-girlfriend Mackenzie - is he still involved with her, too? Does he consider Esme nothing more than a 'friend with benefits'? Events come to a head when a tragic accident occurs from a drive-by shooting.

A major event in the story is the annual 'LA party-fashion week' FAB of which the Goldhagens are chairpersons. 'Everyone who is anyone' - including stars, designers, and paparazzi - participate in the big to-do for charity. This year it takes place on the Queen Mary, and the Goldhagen children are in the show for tots. Each nanny deals with complications in their personal life, their employers, and the children in their care. Some kids are brash and rude from the wealth and fame of their parents, some are overprotected, and some have low self-esteem that needs to be nurtured.

I found this sequel heavy on repetition - who knows who, who wears what (right down to the earrings and shoes) - and overdoing the name-dropping of famed designers and performers. The story is also very slow in getting to the point, leaving many unanswered questions and unresolved issues. I hope that the original theme will be brought out more in the third episode, Have to Have It - i.e. three girls nurturing ignored, overprotected children, each working to reach a worthy, personal goal. I recommend the series - which reminds the reader of the totally different world of the rich and famous and includes some mirth and froth - to older teens.

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