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Undercover Lover by Kylie Brant
(Silh. Int. Mom. #882, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07882-X
****
Ellie Bennett is days away from receiving her final divorce decree from Assistant District Attorney Carter Robinson. Carter, all ego and self-interest dressed up in a three-piece suit realizes too late that an "irreconcilable difference divorce" might not be quite the image an aspiring politician wants to portray.

Ellie has managed to pull herself back together again after her shattering discovery of Carter's unfaithfulness. Long married to Carter and long denigrated by him, she is haunted by her failure as a woman to satisfy Carter as a wife. Ellie would not have made it but for the help of her very good friend John Sullivan, known as Sully.

Sully is a man whose first name is the product of a mother who didn't know which "john" to name him after. He knows no way to measure his self worth except through his job performance. Deep, deep undercover for the DEA, Sully has spent two years masquerading as a drug dealer known as Roarke and working his way up in a Colombian drug cartel.

Sully and Ellie have been best friends for ten years since before Ellie met Carter. Suddenly their friendship explodes into a night of love when Ellie finds herself wanting and wanted for the first time.

The timing is awful since Sully has finally reached the level of upper management in the drug dealing business and is fearful of Ellie's safety. He retreats emotionally and physically. Meanwhile, Carter presents Ellie with a file on Sully showing his life as Roarke, the felon. Unless she is willing to go along with the story that the divorce was caused by her emotional illnesses, Carter claims he will expose Sully.

Treachery abounds on all horizons, since there is very little trust in the Miami drug world as well. Sully must defend himself both there and also against Ellie who is determined to break through his cool exterior.

Kylie Brant has crafted main characters who, for different reasons, are in need of redemption. With only a few deft strokes, Ellie and Sully emerge as people who generate a great deal of empathy. The dialogue is consistent with the mounting tensions found both in the bedroom and in the drug world.

The most pleasant surprise was the fact that the author did not permit her characters to wallow in self-pity. Too often when a plot is constructed based on lack of trust issues, the author succumbs to the temptation of letting her hero and heroine flounder from one crisis to the next until redemption. Brant resisted the easy way and created a hero and heroine who, for a welcome change, demonstrate their strengths as the love story matures within a complicated suspense story.

Undercover Lover showcases Kylie Brant as a writer of compelling, well-crafted romantic suspense stories.

--Thea Davis


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