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"He's a good guy," Melissa says of L.A. talent agent Mark Rousso, whom she started seeing after her mother's death

By Julie Jordan
Updated May 01, 2015 03:15 PM
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Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty

Melissa Rivers shares her personal memories of her mother, Joan, and the lessons she taught her about laughter and love. Subscribe now for instant access to this exclusive interview, only in PEOPLE.

When it came to dating, Joan Rivers had plenty of advice for her daughter. In her new memoir, The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation, Melissa details much of Joan’s guidance when it came to men, from letting him pay to always carrying breath mints.

Yet Melissa thinks Joan would be more than pleased with her new boyfriend, L.A. talent agent Mark Rousso.

After Joan’s death last September, Melissa leaned on Rousso, whom she had been friends with for two-and-a-half years but never considered dating.

“We had a very combative friendship,” Melissa tells PEOPLE. “I had lots of friends that asked me to set them up with him and I would say, ‘No, I would never set anybody I like up with him,’ ” she recalls, laughing. “And then when you go through something like this, it’s interesting because sometimes the person you least expect to step up is the one that does.”

Rousso was there for Melissa, 47, from the moment she got the call that Joan had gone into cardiac arrest. “It threw us into sort of seeing each other in a completely different light. I never ever saw him as a caretaker or as someone dependable, and he said he never saw me as vulnerable or willing to accept help,” she explains.

“I talked to him before I left to go to New York,” Melissa recalls. “And then finally when I made the decision that I was going to turn off the ventilator, I said, ‘I need you to fly out.’ And he did.”

While her Jewish mother was always supportive, Melissa says Joan wouldn’t have believed she would fall for someone like Mark. “He’s Jewish, too,” she says with a grin. “Which by the way, if me actually dating somebody Jewish didn’t kill her, I don’t know what would.”

As for whether or not marriage is in her future again, Melissa says she is taking it slow. “I don’t know. Our lives are crazy enough and then you walk into this situation. We were joking one night, I said, ‘You know, it doesn’t say much about you and your choices when you’re like, ‘Oh, that one is really broken. I’ll take that one.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘You’re not broken, you’re just a little bit bent right now.’ He’s a good guy.”

For more of Melissa Rivers’ exclusive photo shoot and at-home interview – in which she opens up about Joan’s final days and how she’s moving on – pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

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