Molly Cooper's Dream Date - Barbara Hannay I'm (pleasantly!) surprised to report that this book gets an enthusiastic 4-4.5 stars (giving it a little bit of upwards mobility in light of its being a <200 pages Harlequin).

Note that I was even tempted to go with a 4.5-5 stars, but I just couldn't dilute my 5 stars that way. This story stands out as a Harlequin, but on an objective level, too many little things get in the way of giving it that extra star.

The story, in brief.
Really, this will be brief. Molly and Patrick swap houses - her little cottage in the Pacific for his posh London house in Chelsea. They fall for each other through their correspondence, sight largely unseen. She confides that she'd love to go out with an "English gentleman" and have him take her on her "dream date." He unexpectedly finds himself back in London to attend his mother's wedding. During his brief visit, he decides to meet his house swapper, and, in a dick move that you'd expect of a Harlequin (really), he arrives incognito to sweep her off her feet onto her dream date. She's pissed when she finds out who he really is (more on this later). They part ways. They marinate and brood over what happened in respective states of pseudo-angstiness. They get back together in a super sweet way. The end.

The storytelling!
I read this as part of the Romance Forum Refugees' February "Love Letters" challenge. I absolutely LOVED the style of storytelling in this book. Around 80% of the story is told through their back-and-forth emails and their individual journal entries. We actually don't even get "normal" narrative featuring the two main characters until around page 110. This method afforded a LOT of insight into Patrick's POV (H POV is my fave!). It also greatly appealed to my voyeuristic tendencies. (Shhhh!) *wink wink*

The characters.
The characters aren't very complex, but they were fine for a Harlequin. Patrick was a starchy banker who signed his emails "Best wishes." Staaaaarchy. He let his actions speak louder than words, though, and was very sweet towards Molly as she adjusted to life in a big city like London. He sent her a guidebook, arranged for his mother to look in on her, etc.

Molly was an outgoing gal from Down Under. Her emails were ebullient and, at times, a bit over the top. Even so, her excitement and zest for life were palpable, and Patrick was snared.

The Big Misunderstanding. *smacks forehead*
In the same vein of experiencing extreme excitement over being in London, Molly also experienced extreme emotions and reeeeeeally overreacted to the Big Misunderstanding when Patrick confessed to his lie. He had introduced himself as "Patrick's friend," after which he spent the day sightseeing with her and finally took her on her "dream date." He was aware of these "dream date" details because she had confided them to him via email earlier, and he fulfilled her dream to a tee.

I mean, maybe I'm crazy, but that doesn't sound all that bad, does it?

Thank goodness Molly's very grounded Aussie friend smacked some sense into her and got her to see things from another perspective rather than the histrionic "you lied and cheated, you bastard! leave now and die!" overreaction that was still festering within her days and weeks later. I mean, really, Molly - the gent did just take you to the theater, wine and dine you, and you did just admit to yourself that you were falling in love with him. It's not like he completely changed personalities by providing a different name. He pretty much fulfilled your fantasy.

The Big Misunderstanding occurred around 2/3 into the book, which, in my opinion, was far too early. I mean, aren't those things usually page 170 revelations? As a result of the early reveal, the overreaction on Molly's part really seemed to draaaaaaaag. Take heart that Molly recognized she overreacted in the end. There's at least that much.

Overall...
Even with the expected Harlequidiculousness, I really enjoyed this story. I loved the email exchanges and journal entries, and the pages just flew by. The story is sweet, and the love-by-correspondence approach was a unique approach that worked very well.

Note that this book is part of the Harlequin Romance line, and, as such, there are no sexytimes. There is a heated kiss that is relayed via a journal entry and, maybe, another one at the end. Not much to sate my pervy side, to be frank, but after the Dara Joy sexbomb that was Ritual of Proof, I think this little Harlequin served nicely as a palate cleanser.