The Colonel and the Kid
by Elizabeth Ashtree
(Harl.Super. Rom. #1036, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-71036-4
A Russian officer, an irresistible little boy, a dedicated member of the Pentagon protocol office and strong thread of intrigue combine to make The Colonel and the Kid, part of the “In Uniform” series, an exciting and heartwarming story.

Colonel Viktor Baturnov officially comes to the United States to learn about military supply movements for his government. But the real reason is to bring his 12-year-old son, Alexander, who needs heart surgery. Alexander needs a valve replacement to repair damage caused by rheumatic fever.

Complications abound, and protocol officer Captain Natalie Wentworth finds herself drawn to both Viktor and his son. She oversteps the boundary between official duty and personal concern, which just leads to more and more complications.

Natalie finds herself drawn to Viktor from the first time he opens his mouth and speaks in a very seductive Russian accent. Although she would like to just do her job, once she meets the lively yet obviously ill Alexander, she gets personally involved, offering her house and her time to help Viktor when his best-laid plans for caring for Alexander go awry.

Once Viktor and Natalie start spending time together, love blossoms. They have many things in common and find they complement each other. Viktor loves to cook, and Natalie loves to eat. They both stay in great physical shape by running. Natalie grows to love Alexander and that endears her to Viktor. The physical attraction is strong, and once they kiss…the sexual tension builds to a crescendo. It is fun to watch them deny these feelings and find ways to keep from succumbing. Once they do, it is well worth the wait!

Plot twists enhance the romance and help to push Viktor and Natalie into admitting their love. There is a complication with Viktor’s government and his need to stay in the U.S. long enough for Alexander to completely recuperate. Natalie has her own career issues; she is convinced someone is trying to mess up her assignments, thereby keeping her from getting a much-desired promotion. Natalie’s struggles between her personal life and her desires for her career struck me as indicative of what many women wrestle with every day.

Alexander’s surgery and recuperation provide tense moments and underline the feelings of fright, despair, love and relief over a child’s illness that I imagine every parent with a critically ill child must go through. Natalie’s mother is a funny character that adds to Natalie’s struggle with her conscience and provides comic relief. At one point, Viktor guesses that the ringing phone is her mother because she always calls when he is on the verge of making love to Natalie. They laughingly discover it is true and is better than cold water to douse the flames!

Although the detail of the political implications seem to slow down the story at the beginning of the book, the tense international intrigue that provides the conflict in the last half of the book left me with tingles. I just could not put down this story until I knew that all ended well.

The author offers this caveat, and I will too. This book was written prior to events of Sept. 11, 2001. There are many references to the Pentagon, including security, that I am certain are different now. This lack of heightened alertness is noticeable and I found myself having to remind myself of our previous naiveté in order to enjoy the details of the story. Yet, the story deals with the post-cold war strategies with American and Russia in a very effective manner. I laughed when Viktor offers to defect and Natalie informs him we are not enemies any more, so he couldn’t defect. Ah…simpler times.

Intrigue, delight in a child’s pleasure, great romance, a strong hero and heroine and strong characters are the ingredients that make The Colonel and the Kid a delightful read.

--Shirley Lyons

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