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Material Girl
Julia London
Berkley
ISBN: 0425191230
August 2003
Contemporary Romance

Robin Lear has always lived a pampered life. She's had it all. Wealth, position and a cushy job in the family business. Things suddenly change, though, when Aaron Lear, Robin's father, announces he has cancer and he's going to teach his daughter Robin what life's all about. No more free rides, no prestigious title at Lear Transport Industries, nothing, nada. He feels he's made a mess out of raising his daughters and he wants to set that right. But Robin's not about to take it without a whimper. And boy is this pampered, spoiled, rich daddy's girl about to make some noise.

Her relationship with her father is strained to say the least, he's always telling her how she can't do anything right, and she now finds herself having to answer to her ex-boyfriend at Lear Transport. Can anything get more humiliating or worse? Yes! She finds herself pulled over by a cop for speeding, mouths off to said cop and end up with her butt in the slammer, then finds herself being stalked (her words) by some jerk while getting bailed out. What she doesn't know is that jerk is the guy that's renovating her house. Enter Jake Manning.

Jake Manning is your average blue collar worker. He's attending college to get his degree while running his own construction company, and he's also trying to keep his nephew out of trouble, whose father was killed in an accident years earlier and whose mother ran off. Unlike his brothers, one dead and one in prison, he's made something of himself and escaped the life his brothers got trapped in. So what does he need with some loud, rich, uppity, beautiful woman like Robin Lear? She's a whole pack of trouble and everything he doesn't need! Too bad his brain isn't listening.

These two start off on the wrong foot and continue to butt heads at every turn. Not only does Jake have to put up with Robin's pampered ways but he has to put up with her materialistic friends and ex-boyfriend to boot. Still, Robin can't deny Jake's too hot to ignore and Jake can't seem to convince himself to steer clear of this package of trouble, yet at the same time he sees the vunerable person underneath and can't help himself from falling hard. Now if he can only get Robin to see the person he believes her to be. Which doesn't prove to be easy.

Diehard Julia London fans should be prepared for a totally different kind of romance with her first contemporary. I have to admit I found it hard to like the heroine in this book because she came off as very obnoxious, at least through a good part of the book. Her father referred to her as being arrogant, which could fit as well. She was a bit over-the-top for me but one thing I can say, she grew on me as I saw her undergo changes throughout the book. Those changes were a little long in coming and I would have preferred to see them much sooner. There were times in the beginning when I could have cheerfully slapped her but one thing I found very different from most heroines was her belief in herself, which she had a hard time coming to grips with. This is a character that is constantly being told by her father how nothing she does is right (her father is a total ass), so much so that she actually believes it. You won't find a strong heroine here, but a heroine who has to discover who she is and what she is. Yes she can give as good as she gets, but inside she's full of doubts and insecurities. The best part of the book for me was seeing her come into herself, with Jake's help, seeing the people around her for what they are and having the strength to finally tell them to shove it, that she can make it on her own and doesn't need all the riches she grew up with because she likes who she's become.

Jake is your typical hero but he takes it one step further. He doesn't take any crap off Robin. He tells her what he thinks and lets the chips fall where they may. I loved that about him. He even referred to Robin, in his mind, as having a fat mouth, and once told her she was a bitch in one of her finer moments. And this was when they were already involved! Now how many times do you hear that in a romance? And he was right. He didn't hold his punches with her and I found that very refreshing. She didn't always like it, most of the time she didn't, but she was just as good at giving it back, too. This relationship was more real than any I'd ever read. And adding Jakes troubled nephew to the mix and some down home secondary characters was what was needed to bring out the best in Robin.

If you're expecting a heroine that's perfect you won't find it here. If you enjoy seeing a character transform before your eyes, from someone that's shallow, spoiled and not so nice, to a likeable, caring person then you'll love watching these two characters build a relationship that has all the odds against it but still has that happy-ever-after ending, not to mention some quirky, funny characters.

Barb Hoeter, May 2003

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