Hard Candy

Heart of Texas

Her Perfect Man

Lone Star Heat

One Summer Evening

Southern Fires

Sultry

 
Tempting Janey by Mary Lynn Baxter
(Mira, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-55166-809-2
***
Tempting Janey is a well-crafted romance that deals realistically with the problems that confront mature adults who are attracted to each other. I found it enjoyable reading for the most part even when I lost patience with the heroine.

Janey Mayfield and her daughter, Robin, have moved back to Hunter, South Carolina, after three years in Colorado. When her marriage broke up, Janey moved to Colorado to be near her brother. Then her aunt retired and gave Janey her candy store, so Janey reluctantly moved back to Hunter, in part because Robin, aged 17, wanted to be with her friends.

Dillon Reed is the principal of Robin's high school and a widower. Before his wife died, she had had an affair with Janey's ex-husband, the affair that broke up Janey's marriage. Dillon stayed with his wife because Elaine had already been diagnosed with the cancer that killed her. Now that Janey is back in Hunter, both Dillon and Janey find themselves having to confront old wounds and deal with a new, mutual attraction.

Robin presents Janey with a different set of problems. Robin wants her parents back together again, and Keith, Robin's hard-drinking, womanizing father, has convinced himself that all his problems will be solved if he can just persuade Janey to take him back. In addition, Robin has a crush on the school's star quarterback, but Chad gives Janey the creeps.

Janey and Dillon's almost instant attraction rings true only because they had known each other so well before their spouses' affair. Dillon is portrayed convincingly - the tough ex-Marine turned school principal and would-be rancher. He runs into Janey accidentally, is attracted to her, wants her in his bed, pursues her, and gradually realizes that what he feels is more than a passing fancy. For the most part, Dillon's feelings progress in a straightforward, believable fashion. Janey's motivations gave me more difficulty.

At first she is downright nasty to Dillon, illogically blaming him for his wife's affair with Keith. Then she starts noticing his great build and sexy voice and thinking (heaven forfend!) about kissing him. For some reason, being attracted to an old friend who has a steady job and understands the ups and downs of living with an adolescent is a no-no, and Janey decides Dillon is off limits. Events keep throwing them together, however, and eventually they kiss and engage in some heavy petting. Now Janey is really in lust with Dillon, but it can't be anything more than lust, can it? Janey can't trust men after her awful marriage to Keith, never mind that Dillon is as unlike Keith as it is possible to be and still share the same gender.

I had fewer problems with Janey's seesawing relationship with her daughter. Anyone who has ever been blessed with a teenager knows how moody they can be, and Janey's fears about the power of peer pressure aroused my sympathy. When Janey's ex-husband's manipulation of Robin's emotions caused some of those adolescent mood swings, I shared Janey's anger. On the other hand, I grew tired of Janey's plunges into paroxysms of guilt and self-blame whenever Robin disregarded Janey's advice or instructions. College is looming on the horizon, and Janey seems ill prepared to loosen the apron strings.

For the most part, however, Mary Lynn Baxter's skillful writing style smoothed out the bumps in the narrative and kept me reading. In fact, I would have liked Tempting Janey to be just a little longer. Without giving away any plot twists, the number of issues resolved in the last fifteen pages of this book, and the way they are resolved, gave the ending a rushed feeling. A little less melodrama and a few more pages would have made for a more believable ending.

--Nancy J. Silberstein


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