Almost Perfect

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Bestselling author Patricia Rice shares her most treasured novel yet– a warm and witty romantic journey of a single mother running out of second chances, and the irresistible man who dares her to believe in miracles. . . .

Celebrated cartoonist Jared McCloud is plumb out of laughs. So he rents a secluded beach house for the fall to unblock his creative juices–and ends up falling for the reluctant landlady ...
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Bestselling author Patricia Rice shares her most treasured novel yet– a warm and witty romantic journey of a single mother running out of second chances, and the irresistible man who dares her to believe in miracles. . . .

Celebrated cartoonist Jared McCloud is plumb out of laughs. So he rents a secluded beach house for the fall to unblock his creative juices–and ends up falling for the reluctant landlady whose beautiful green-eyed glare reads like a “No Trespassing” sign against the world.

Cleo Alyssum isn’t exactly a recluse, though living on an island and avoiding people aren’t the actions of a social butterfly. Cleo simply has more important things to do than to chat with the sexy, artistic, impossibly bullheaded hunk living in her guest house. Yet somehow Jared and his devilish charm inch their way into her life, reaching the warm places her cold exterior cleverly hides. Will Cleo open her heart to a man who falls short of her expectations? After all, it wasn’t her intention to fall for someone who is almost perfect. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this uneven offering from seasoned romance author Rice (All a Woman Wants, etc.), cartoonist Jared McCloud longs for two months of peace and quiet so he can finish his animated screenplay. A remote seaside cottage in South Carolina seems the perfect place to kick his creative juices into gear, and it would have been if not for his eccentric landlady, Cleo Alyssum, whose own quest for privacy prompts her to arm the grounds around her house with live peacocks, fake skeletons and screaming sirens. Cleo has a good reason for wanting to keep a low profile; she's on probation for shoplifting, possession and substance abuse, and she needs to stay clean and sober in order to regain custody of her young son, Matty. The story heats up when a hurricane forces Cleo and Jared into the usual steamy romance, but takes a dark turn as the pair try to protect a couple of abused teens from their dysfunctional mother and her sexually deviant boyfriend. While all the ingredients for a good Southern novel are in place here (sex, violence, humor and ambience), wooly characterizations and a confusing, unexplained conclusion involving ancient human bones found on Cleo's property will leave the reader wondering how all these plot fragments connect. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
RT Book Reviews - Jill Smith
“...both a love story and a story of personal growth.”
41/2, Top Pick
author - Mary Jo Putney
“Brilliant and riveting, edgy and funny,”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587242922
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Series: Wheeler Softcover Ser.
  • Edition description: LARGEPRINT
  • Pages: 458
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Rice is the million-copy bestselling author of Wayward Angel, Denim and Lace, Paper Moon, Garden of Dreams, the national bestseller Blue Clouds, Volcano, Impossible Dreams, and Nobody’s Angel. She has won numerous awards, including the Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award. A mother of two children, she lives in North Carolina.
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Read an Excerpt


I am a rotten person.

Biting her lip, Cleo Alyssum painstakingly printed this fact into her journal. She thought the whole idea of a journal of emotions about as silly as it got, but if the counselor wanted honesty, that’s what he would get.

She would do anything to transform herself into the kind of mother Matty needed. Anything.

Of course, that’s how she’d got into this situation in the first place. Sitting back in her desk chair, she gazed out the sagging windowpanes of the old house she was restoring. She missed Matty so desperately, her teeth ached, but the court had set December as the deadline for his return—provided she danced to the steps the counselor called.

Matty needed security and stability, they said, and her sister provided it.

She’d tried suburban life with Maya, but she just couldn’t hack it. Trouble found her too easily in crowds. Out here on the island she could get her head together without too many people in her face. She was far less apt to jeopardize Matty’s return if she stayed away from people.

These last few years she’d learned to restore old buildings, turning decrepit dumps into useful, viable businesses and homes, and she loved the satisfaction of seeing the visible results of her hard work. Too bad the difference she was supposed to be making in herself wasn’t as obvious.

The opportunity to buy a small-town hardware store had opened up just as she’d run out of buildings to restore, and at the time, it had seemed ideal. She knew the business inside and out, loved the isolation of the South Carolina coast, and when she’d found this run-down island farmhouse for a steal, she’d known she’d found a home. The beach cottage down by the shore might be beyond hope, but she hadn’t given up on it yet. Maya and the kids might visit more often if she could fix it up. In the meantime, she was diligently turning the main house into the home she’d never known. She hoped.

If she could only convince her federal supervisor she was a fine, upstanding citizen, she’d be free and clear soon, and almost in a normal world for the first time in her life.

Having a job she could do without hassles from any boss, and a home where she could lock the doors against the world, she thought she finally had a chance of living a civilized life. She wasn’t doing this for the feds, though. Matty deserved a sane mother, and she was doing her best, if the process didn’t kill her first. At least now when he visited on weekends, she could give him her entire attention, and he seemed to be blossoming into a new kid with the change. Even Maya had noted how much happier he was.

Cleo ran her fingers through her stubby hair and returned to staring at the almost empty page of the notebook. She didn’t think she was capable of verbalizing all her conflicting emotions about her sister. Maya could have written an entire essay on how Cleo felt about her. Cleo would rather hammer nails.

If she compared her mothering skills to Perfect Maya’s, she was destined for failure.

The muffled noise of a car engine diverted her attention. A fresh breeze off the ocean blew through the windows in the back of the house, but the only things coming through the floor-to-ceiling front windows were flies. Thickets of spindly pines, palmettos, and wax myrtle prevented her from seeing the driveway entrance or the rough shell road beyond.

She didn’t encourage visitors and wasn’t expecting anyone. A lost tourist would turn around soon enough.

She returned to the blank page of her journal and printed: People are pains in the a . . . She struck out the “a” and substituted “butt.”

She crinkled her nose at the result. One word probably wasn’t any more polite than the other.

The smooth hum of the car’s powerful engine hesitated, and Cleo waited for the music of it backing up and turning around. Someone took good care of their machine. She couldn’t hear a single piston out of sync.

She rolled her eyes as the obtuse visitor gunned the engine and roared past the four-foot blinking no trespassing sign. One would think a message that large would be taken seriously, but tourists determined to reach a secluded beach were nearly unstoppable.

“Nearly” was the operative word here.

Biting her bottom lip again, Cleo reread her two-line entry. She had to go into town and open the store shortly. She didn’t have time for detailed expositions, if that’s what the shrink wanted. It looked to her like a few good strong sentences ought to be sufficient.

Adding Men are the root of all evil struck her as funny, but she supposed a male counselor wouldn’t appreciate it. She left it there anyway. The counselor had said he wanted honesty. Of course, she was probably sabotaging all her efforts. She’d had enough therapy to acknowledge her self-destructive tendencies. Now, if she’d only apply that knowledge . . .

She lifted her pen and waited for the car engine to reach the next turn in the half-mile-long lane. The sound of waves crashing in the distance almost drowned out the wicked screech of her mechanical witch. Still, she heard the car tires squeal as they braked. The battery- operated strobe light was particularly effective at keeping teenagers from turning this into a lovers’ lane at night. During the day, well . . .

She shrugged and capped the pen. That was enough introspection for one day. The counselor ought to know she was a mucked-up mess. She shouldn’t have to lay it out in terms a first-grader could understand. Another thought occurred to her, and she grabbed the pen again.

Baring my soul is not my style.

There. That ought to be letting it out enough for one day.

Her head shot up as the car engine drew closer, evidently bypassing the scowling witch. Stupid bastard. What was she supposed to do, dump a load of pig turds on him to get the message across? That might work if they were driving a convertible.

They usually were.

She despised the arrogant, self-confident yuppie asses who thought the whole world was their oyster. Didn’t “Private Property” mean anything to them?

Apparently not. The car engine zoomed right past the pop-up sign she’d rigged in the middle of the lane. Forgetting to turn off the system before she’d left for work, she’d driven around the sign one too many times herself, and the dirt bypass was clearly visible. She’d plant a palmetto there tomorrow.

Slamming the notebook into her desk drawer, she picked up her purse and donned her sunglasses. She hadn’t quite perfected the mechanism to shut the swinging post barrier on the access road. She hated the idea of erecting a fence across there. The moron would simply have to drown if he insisted on using her beach. A bad undertow past the jetty made this a dangerous strip for swimming, but she supposed the No Swimming signs wouldn’t stop the nematode either.

Maybe she could rig a siren to a motion detector. There wasn’t any law out here for it to summon, but tourists wouldn’t know that.

Pulling out her truck keys, she almost didn’t hear the purr of the engine turning into her drive, but the shriek of a hidden peacock warned of the intrusion.

Damn. Did the jerk think the house deserted? Admittedly, she hadn’t bothered painting the weathered gray boards and the sagging shutters, but she kind of thought them picturesque. And it wasn’t as if she’d not littered the place with warning signs. If the town council insisted on encouraging film crews to work here, she’d be prepared to keep them out. She hadn’t traveled an entire continent to have that California lifestyle follow her.

She waited as the barking guard dog yapped through its entire routine. A real dog would scare the peacocks, but the tape recording was usually effective. Amazing how many people were frightened of barking dogs. The mailman had quit delivering to the door after he’d heard it.

Cleo sighed as the driver shut off the car engine instead of turning around. Determined suckers. Only Maya and Axell ever got this far past her guardians. She could slip out the back way, but curiosity riveted her to the window. Standing far enough back not to be seen, she couldn’t wait to see how her intrepid guest reacted to her burglar alert system.

A pair of long-legged, crisply ironed khakis appeared beneath the porch overhang. A man. She should have known. Men had to prove themselves by showing no fear. It didn’t seem to matter if they showed no intelligence while they were at it.

The lean torso decked in a tight black polo appeared next. She was sick of looking at fat slugs with pooching white bellies and hairy, sunken chests cluttering the view from the beach. At least this ape strode tall and straight and . . .

My, my. She stopped chewing a hangnail to relish the loose-limbed swing of wide shoulders and a corded throat topped by an angular face with more character than prettiness. He was all length—arms, legs, nose, neck—but they all fit together in a casual sort of package. His hands were in his pockets as he gazed up at her mildly eccentric porch, so she couldn’t see his fingers, but she’d bet they were a piano teacher’s dream.

Tousled sable hair fell across a tanned brow, and she was almost sorry she’d left the security system on. If he was selling insurance, she wouldn’t mind listening to his pitch just to hear what came out of a package like that.

The aviator sunglasses were a downright sexy trim for this parcel.

“You are under alert!” the loudspeaker blared as soon as the intruder hit the first porch step. She’d used an army drill sergeant for that recording. It would scare the pants off any normal person. This one halted, and removed his sunglasses now that he was in shade, but his gaze traced the bellowing voice with curiosity, not fear.

“Turn back now. This is your only warning!”

Cleo bit back a sigh of exasperation as the jerk bent over to examine the step for wires. Did he think her an idiot to put wires where someone could cut them?

“Your location has been verified, and you are now under surveillance. Put up your hands, or we’ll shoot.”

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I enjoyed it!

    Cleo Alyssum has moved to a small seaside town in South Carolina to try to get her life in order. She has a bit of a checkered past. Cleo is on probation and her sister has custody of her son Matty. She has purchased the local hardware store and her past is a secret to her customers. Cleo has befriended a neighbor woman who has her own problems, if for no other reason to help out the woman’s teenage kids. She just has to keep her nose clean and she will get her son back in time for Christmas. The last thing she needs in her life is a man.

    Along comes Jared McCloud wanting to rent the beach house on the property. He even offers to pay for repairs and upgrades to the house. Cleo is an extremely private person, she agrees to let him rent the place as long as he respects her privacy. Their lives quickly become intertwined with her holding back and him trying to push forward. Can they have a future in spite of her past?

    Dollycas’s Thoughts
    I really enjoyed this story. Cleo is a woman trying to turn her life around and it isn’t easy especially because she has shut everyone out. Jared is the man that just may be able to break through her barriers while knocking down a few of his own. Their interplay is entertaining and captivating.

    Cleo is also very unconventional with her “zoo” and her wonderful inventions to keep trespassers off her property.

    This is more than love story, it does have romance and a few sexy scenes, but there is also humor, drama and even a bit of mystery. This may be my first Patricia Rice novel but it definitely is not my last. I have added the entire Carolina Series to my wish list.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2006


    'Richard arrives, bearing wine and sometimes bourbon, often flowers, and after an endless languishing kiss at the door, they settle in the living room for several drinks. For talking, for kissing.' I just had to read this book, having just completed Superior Women by this author. I found this book rather entertaining with a multitude of characters of the art a literary world. The couple in the story, Stella Blake and Richard Fallon seems to have the world at their feet for them, and they are compatible in many ways. They both love cooking for each other, dining out at exotic restaurants, and they truly seem to love each other very much. But do they really? For Richard Fallon is a dificult man, sometimes hard to please and poor Stella finds herself sometimes trying too hard. That's the mystery of it all and the reason this book is called Almost Perfect, so you must read on and see what happens when the party decorations come down and life challenges are thrown their way. Almost Perfect held my interest and attention, and I highly recommend it. Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar 17/07/06

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    superb relationship drama

    With her record, Cleo Alyssum knows she needs to remain perfectly clean if she is to regain custody of her seven-year-old son Matty. Thus, she finds contentment and isolation from her past on a secluded South Carolina island until renowned cartoonist Jared McCloud of Scapegrace fame arrives asking to rent the dilapidated guesthouse. Cleo refuses until a teenage neighbor playing a prank causes an accident involving Jared. To keep thirteen-year-old Gene out of trouble with the law, Cleo rents the property to Jared. <P>Jared is very attracted to Cleo, but she rejects his advances, as she does not need a new man in her house except for her Matty. However, she admits that Jared is nice and seems to care about others when he begins to help Gene and the lad¿s sister with their personal problems. Still his efforts to reach Cleo constantly fail leaving it up to a natural disaster like the hurricane that descends on the island to show her that Jared is nothing like her deceased husband was. <P> ALMOST PERFECT is a superb relationship drama that stars two strong lead characters and a deeply wounded but a bit over-characterized support cast. The story line predominantly spins around Jared and Cleo, but also provides a deep look at other relationships especially when a caring adult gets involved with teens. Patricia Rice has written an angst laden relationship drama that hard core fans will fully relish. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    4 STARS Carolina/McCloud Brothers BOOK 1 Almost Perfect brings

    4 STARS

    Carolina/McCloud Brothers BOOK 1

    Almost Perfect brings Cleo Alyssum from Impossible Dreams back and tells her story.
    Cleo has moved to a Island she bought a hardware store and is fixing up houses. She wants
    to be left alone. On her road she has warning signs then flying witch, a tape of police sirens,dogs barking. Other items that keep people away.

    Jared liked the signs and other things. He wants to rent her beach house but Cleo does not want company near her. So she leaves and Jared follows in his fancy car. All of a sudden Jared feels something on his foot he sees a black snake and the snake starts to crawl up his pant leg. Jared loose control of his car and flips.

    Cleo learns that he crashed and was out. He had no ID on him or the car. Cleo also learns that her neighbor teen put a snake in his car. Cleo feels paniced and wants to protect Gene so agrees to rent her beach house to Jared.

    Cleo is trying to get custody of her son Matey. She has befriended two teenagers that mom has substance abuse. She does not want to turn the kids into social services because she was in the kids life and grew up in system and had bad experiences thier too.

    I liked Almost Perfect and bought it on Amazon and bought the next book in

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  • Posted June 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A romance with circumstance


    Just like the title, this book's premise was "Almost Perfect"! It is not your typical romance novel, Cleo is all about barricading doors, while Jared only seeks to break them down. I loved their opposite personalities and budding relationship, especially the more tense scenes, but I really enjoyed the light-heated humor that went along with their tête-à-tête. I also loved the subplot (no spoilers), and hope that I get to read another story involving those characters. I did not know that Almost Perfect was part of a series, (Carolina/McCloud Brothers Series), but I really do want to find and read copies of Impossible Dreams, McCloud's Woman, and Carolina Girl. It is nice to sit down with a comfortable romance on a summer afternoon and read about such great characters, I just wish that it hadn't seemed so rushed. Of course the plot was predictable, as many romances are, but I found the story entertaining none-the-less. Recommended for those in the mood for romance.

    Rating: Bounty's Out (3.5/5)

    *** I received this book from the author (LibraryThing Early Reviewers) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

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    Posted December 14, 2011

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