Promise to a Boy
by Mary Brady
(Harl. Super #1691, $5.50, PG) ISBN 978-0373-71691-3
Small towns in Montana are just as comfortable and homey as small towns everywhere. This one is host to a family that is a bit dysfunctional, but loving. And when a big city businessman comes looking for his long-lost brother, he sees that love can blossom and small towns aren’t all that bad.

St. Adelbert, Montana, has been a life saver for Abby Fairbanks. She lived here briefly as a child and has returned as an adult. Her mother, who was flighty and struggled to recover from her husband’s abandonment, left Abby feeling like the responsible one for she and her sister, Lena. Abby grew up and became a nurse, building a life in Denver. But life is not always fair and an unjust accusation of wrong-doing creates a situation where Abby lost her job. She has been in St. Adelbert for almost five years again, caring for her nephew , Kyle, who she has raised since he was a baby. Her mother is still looking for a good man. Her sister Lena is now in the Army, having cleaned up from a drug habit and illegitimate child to finally get her life on track. She is currently overseas and Abby has custody of the delightful five year old.

Abby also has another burden. Lena’s friend Jesse has been staying with her, or at least renting an apartment over her garage. He and Lena have a history, but no one really knows how deep the relationship went…i.e. is he or is he not Kyle’s daddy? Jesse likes Kyle, but he is a free spirit, moving from job to job, never really sticking. He is estranged from his family, yet seems to have money. Jesse is currently gone on one of his hiking trips, but this time he has been gone much longer than he normally stays away.

Reed Maxwell is Jesse’s older brother. He and Jesse grew apart as they grew older. Raised by nannies and boarding schools, their parents were less than ideal. Their father was a workaholic who didn’t think Jesse ever did anything right. He tolerated Reed a little more due to his business acumen, but they were never close. Their mother was an alcoholic society wife in Chicago. She is working hard at drying out and is determined to find Jesse to share her distress and beg his forgiveness.

Reed comes to St. Adelbert and finds Kyle and Abby rather than Jesse. He stays, giving Abby some money for back rent that she is owed. He also stays because he wants to find Jesse. What he finds is a town who holds his adult brother in high regard despite some of his idiosyncrasies. He finds a woman who gives to all she sees. Abby is one of those people who give and give and take little for her own needs, having convinced herself that she doesn’t need love. Two failed engagements helped in that convincing.

Meanwhile, Reed is a charming man who is a little at lost ends. His business life is becoming less than satisfying, but he too is such a worrier, he can’t really see what he needs until Abby opens his eyes to attraction and the possibility of love.

This is an interesting book since it involves two people who are hit in the face with their attraction yet who have spent so much time worrying and thinking about everyone else, they almost miss the signs. When Lena is late returning from an excursion and Jesse seems to have disappeared from the Utah wilderness where he was last seen, the question of Kyle’s paternity put up a barrier to the future of both families. This is generally handled with maturity and after a time, with open conversation. Reed and Abby make a cute couple and their innate caring ultimately wins the other over. Their efforts to consummate their relationship involving Abby’s mother providing the condoms is one of the funniest scenes I have read in a long time.

Promise to a Boy is an intelligent, engaging story that will hold the reader’s attention and satisfy that hope that life can work out and everyone can find their happy ending.

--Shirley Lyons

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