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Learning Curve    by Terry McLaughlin order for
Learning Curve
by Terry McLaughlin
Order:  USA  Can
Harlequin, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton

Joe Wisniewski has a new teaching assistant, twenty-nine-year-old Emily Sullivan. She is seen by family as constantly changing her mind on what she wants to do with her life. Though Emily feels herself a failure, she thinks she's finally found her calling. When Joe first meets her at Caldwell High, he sees a perky, happy, attractive young woman whom he cannot stand. She's way too much of a cheerleader type for him. Emily is Joe's opposite. She's the daughter of a military man from a very conservative Republican family. Joe was raised by his mother's sister Anna, a liberal, free-spirited lesbian who lives with her life partner.

Joe is the teacher Emily idolized while growing up. He mentored her older brother, who credits Joe for who he is today. Emily had a huge crush on Joe, worshipping him from afar, and is excited to be working with him while she gets her degree. Everyone at school loves Emily, teachers as well as students. Unfortunately, Caldwell High's principal, the creepy Kyle Walford, is one of them. Emily knows she has to watch herself with him. Emily and Joe both feel strong chemistry, but know it would be inappropriate to pursue a relationship outside their professional one. Joe has never had a committed relationship, and is known for sleeping around. He wants to hide this from Emily, at least in the beginning. What Emily sees in Joe is a caring and nurturing teacher, despite his gruff attitude. After much deliberation, Emily invites Joe to a Halloween party, where her friend Marilee notices something going on between them. Emily and Joe find that sexual tension makes working together difficult. As things become hot and heavy between them, they are very careful not to let anyone know what is going on.

I loved the characters in Learning Curve. The contrast between polar opposites Emily and Joe was almost too funny. The story is told with a touch of humor, and I giggled at Joe's frustration in having to work with someone who drove him wild. The brief appearance of Joe's aunt Anna was a hoot. I did wonder about Joe's student Matt, who behaved like a much older person, giving advice wise beyond his years. I enjoyed Emily's mother Kay and found her relationship with Emily very endearing. This is the type of book I can imagine being made into a Hallmark movie - lots of interesting characters in a small-town setting, a story with a moral at the end, light humor, and two lovers that most readers will enjoy getting to know.

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