Mr (Not Quite) Perfect
Release Date: 2014
Synopsis - Journalist Allegra Fielding has a problem. She's pitched a story to her boss - how to transform a not-so-perfect man into Prince Charming - and now she has to deliver! But where is she going to find a man willing to take part in a makeover? Time to blackmail her roommate, Max ...
A little bit extra...
Mr (Not Quite) Perfect is my 60th book, and I've got to say, it's one of my favourites. I was asked to write a Cinderella story, where the heroine is transformed, but why is it always the woman who has to change? I wanted to write a book where it was the guy who was expected to do the changing!
This book won a Desert Island Keeper Review from All About Romance, which described it as a "funny yet achingly romantic little story". You can read the full review here: http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=10002
‘But …’ she said, drawing out the word, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. He never liked the sound of “but”. ‘… there is just one tiny thing you could do for me in return.’
She smiled innocently at him and his wary looked deepened. ‘What?’
‘No, your line is: of course Allegra, I’ll do whatever you want.’
‘What?’ he repeated.
Allegra sighed and squirmed round until she facing him. She tucked hair her behind her ears, the way she did when she was trying to look serious and fixed him with her big green eyes.
‘You know how hard it’s been for me to make my mark at Glitz?’
Max did. He knew more than he wanted, in fact, about Allegra’s precarious foothold on the very lowest rung of the glossy magazine, where as far as he could make out emotions ran at fever pitch every day and huge dramas erupted over shoes or handbags or misplaced emery boards. Or something equally pointless.
Allegra seemed to love it. She raced into the flat, all long legs and cheekbones and swingy, shiny hair, discarding scarves and shoes and earrings as she went, and whirled out again in an outfit that looked exactly the same to Max’s untutored eye.
She was always complaining, though, that no one at the magazine noticed her. Max thought that was extremely unlikely. Allegra might not be classically beautiful but she had a vivid face with dark hair, striking green eyes and a mobile expression. She wasn’t the kind of girl people didn’t notice.
He’d known her since Libby had first brought her home for the holidays. Max, callous like most boys his age, had dismissed her at first as neurotic, clumsy and overweight. For a long time she’d just been Libby’s gawky friend, but she’d shed the weight one summer and while it was too much to say that she’d emerged a butterfly from her chrysalis, she had certainly gained confidence. Now she was really quite attractive, Max thought, his gaze resting on her face and drifting, quite without him realising, to her mouth.
He jerked his eyes away. The last time he’d found himself looking at her mouth, it had nearly ended in disaster. It had been before he’d met Emma, a moment of madness one night when all at once things seemed to have changed. Max still didn’t know what had happened. One moment he and Allegra had been talking, and the next he’d been staring into her eyes, feeling as if he was teetering on the edge of a chasm. Scrabbling back, he’d dropped his gaze to her mouth instead, and that had been even worse.
He’d nearly kissed Allegra.
How weird would that have been? Luckily they’d both managed to look away at last, and they’d never referred to what had happened – or not happened – ever again. Max put it out of his mind. It was just one of those inexplicable moments that were best not analysed, and it was only occasionally, like now, when the memory hurtled back and caught him unawares, a sly punch under his ribs that interfered oddly with his breathing.
Max forced his mind back to Allegra’s question. ‘So what’s changed?’ he asked her, and she drew a deep breath.
‘I’ve got my big break! I’ve got my own assignment.’
‘Well, great … good for you, Legs. What’s it going to be? A hard-hitting exposé of corruption in the world of shoes? Earth-shattering revelations on where the hemline is going to be next year?’
‘Like I’d need your help if it was either of those!’ said Allegra tartly. ‘The man who wouldn’t know fashion if it tied him up and slapped him around the face with a wet fish.’
‘So what do you need me for?’
‘Promise you’ll hear me out before you say anything?’
Max swung his legs down and sat up as he eyed Allegra with foreboding. ‘Uh-oh, I’m starting to get bad feeling about this!’
‘Please, Max! Just listen!’
‘Oh, all right,’ he grumbled, sitting back and folding his arms. ‘But this had better be good.’
‘Well …’ Allegra moistened her lips. ‘You know we have an editorial conference to plan features for the coming months?’
Max didn’t, but he nodded anyway. The less he had to hear about the workings of Glitz, the better.
‘So today we were talking about one of the girls whose relationship has just fallen apart.’
‘This is work? Gossiping about relationships?’ It didn’t sound like any conference Max had ever been in.
‘Our readers are interested in relationships.’ Allegra’s straight, shiny hair had swung forward again. She flicked it back over her shoulder and fixed him with a stern eye. ‘You’re supposed to be just listening,’ she reminded him.
‘So, yes, we were talking about that and how her problem was that she had totally unrealistic expectations,’ she went on when Max subsided with a sigh. ‘She wanted some kind of fairy tale prince.’
Princes. Fairy tales. Max shook his head. He thought about his own discussions at work: about environmental impact assessments and deliverables and bedrock depths. Sometimes it seemed to him that Allegra lived in a completely different world.
Unaware of his mental interruption, Allegra was still holding forth about the discussions that apparently constituted work in the world of glossy magazines. ‘In the past, the fantasy was of some knight slaying dragons and hacking his way through thickets to earn our love, but nowadays the fighting and the slaying isn’t enough. We also want our knight to be able to talk about his feelings.’
Max screwed up his face. Feelings. He might have known that word would come up sooner or later.
‘Maybe it’s harder for men nowadays to be what we want,’ Allegra said.
‘You can say that again,’ said Max, thinking of Emma.
‘Anyway, we had a long discussion about what women really want,’ she went on, ignoring him. ‘And we came to the conclusion that actually we want everything. We want a man who can fix a washing machine and plan the perfect date. Who’ll fight his way through a thicket if required but who can also dress well and talk intelligently at the theatre. Who can plan the perfect romantic date and sort out your tax and dance and communicate …’
Max had been listening with growing incredulity. ‘Good luck finding a bloke who can do all that!’
‘Exactly!’ Allegra leant forward eagerly. ‘That was what we all said. There isn’t anyone like that out there. But what if we could make a man like that? What if we could create a boyfriend who was everything women wanted?’
‘How on earth would you go about that?’ asked Max, not sure whether to laugh or groan in disbelief.
‘By teaching him what to do,’ said Allegra. ‘That’s the feature: can you take an ordinary bloke and transform him into the perfect man?’
There was a silence. Max’s sense of foreboding was screaming a warning now.
‘Please tell me this isn’t the point where you say: and this is where you come in,’ he said in a hollow voice.
‘And this is where you come in, Max,’ said Allegra.
© Jessica Hart, 2014