Hailey North's Not the Marrying Kind is that rarest of delights a straight contemporary romance. No dead bodies, no dripping fangs, no neckcloths or horses or ghosts. This is a romance novel, with all the delicious complexities and delights that entails. When Harriet Smith (poor girl with a name like that, what could she be but the class nerd?) was in high school, she loved Jake Porter from afar. He was everything she could never have, and she was everything he'd never notice. But the stars aligned and the two had one night together, long ago. Since then, Jake has become a driven music executive and Harriet has made her way to New York City to become a world-famous artist along with the gay best friend she married to give her son a name. Of course it's Jake's son, and of course the two will come together again at Christmas, in small-town Arkansas but North knows the truth at the heart of a romance is that we only care when it is two very particular, very individual humans falling in love, and it is the subtly layered characters and clever touches that make this tale so engaging.

Barbara Samuel's next novel will be out from Bantam in 2008. Read her opinions on travel and books at awriterafoot.com.

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