Wizard by Stephanie James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sometimes you just want to read an old school category romance, and that's why I ended up reading this. Plus, I never could resist a Nerd Hero. This is also a bit of an opposites attract kind of book. Sophy is the normal intellect daughter of two academic geniuses and she has a chip on her shoulder about academics. She likes cowboys. Her parents have mostly given up on making her in their image, but they are still trying to pair her up with an intellectual so they can have genius grandchildren. So of course, they push Max in her direction when he comes to Dallas for some consulting work, getting Max to meet her while he's in town.
Sophy is downright insulting to Max, initially, pretty much calling him dull as ditchwater to his face, and citing her preference for cowboys. Max is enchanted with Sophy and very, very jealous of her cowboy she's currently dating. For Max, it's practically love at first sight. He resolves to spend as much time with her as possible, and he ends up seducing her into giving this academic the old college try.
Stephanie James is a pen name for Jayne Ann Krentz and you can tell. Ms. Krentz/James seems to prefer intelligent, but very masculine alpha types, and well, who can blame her? I liked Max. He has a big POV, and you realize that he's a very layered man. Under his calm, intellectual exterior lurks a crouching tiger. I can see that he was more than willing to fight for his woman. I love a hero who doesn't give up on his heroine and pursues her despite all obstacles.
Although Sophy did come off a little bratty at first, it's apparent, she's a very sweet person. It was her way of dealing with the hurt of always being the normal kid around overachievers. I like that even though Max massacred the steak (steak-grilling is apparently a skill all men must possess or lose their man card), she still stroked his ego about it. That was very sweet of her. She didn't have to do that. She could have destroyed his fragile male ego, but she didn't. I like that Sophy is also very well-developed. She is a talented seamstress and designer, and her flair for color and design is apparent, even in the face of people (including her parents, dismissing it as trivial).
I lived in Dallas as a teenager (high school), and James captures it well. I have a book fondness for cowboys, but my real life experiences with them has left me disenchanted. Sophy's beau reminded me of some of the cowboys I went to school with, and he lives down to my worst experiences of that type. I can't say I ever met a real life cowboy I found sexy, but I will still cherish my fictional cowboys. However, nerds always win out. Max is one sexy nerd. I like that he's very supportive of Sophy and never treats her like she's his intellectual inferior. He seems to understand that being a book smart person isn't the sum total of experience. I liked that although her parents don't get her, Sophy's parents do love her, and she loves them. I think it took courage for Sophy to forge her own path, despite the fact that it took her in a very different direction from her family's aspirations.
This book lives up to the charm that old school category romances will always hold for me. It's amazing how much story a skilled writer can tell in under 200 pages. I'm really glad I was drawn in by the nerd angle, and I've enjoyed all the Stephanie James books I've read--this is no exception I'd recommend this if you can get a copy of it.
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