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Millionaire in Disguise

A Real Hero

Texas Royalty

What the Heart Knows

Forgiveness by Jean Brashear
(Harl. Super. #1267, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-71267-7
Forgiveness is the study of a young woman who has to learn to live with the choices she made and to reconcile with those she hurt. More than that, she has to forgive herself for driving while drunk and causing the accident that killed her younger brother. She is not the traditional heroine. She is strong in character, but succumbs to self-pity and often behaves as if she wants to self-destruct. The only thing keeping her hanging on is her son.

Victoria Channing, called Ria, left on the run following the accident that caused her brother's death. Sure that her parents hated her, she couldn't face their censure or her own feelings. Luckily, she ran into a mousy-looking man name Dog Boy who took her under his wing and helped her survive on the streets. But not before she found herself pregnant. He convinced her to have the child, a boy whom she named Benjamin David, and was her friend when she needed it most. On his deathbed, he made her promise to find her parents and make her peace.

Now, six years later, Ria returns home, finding her mother, Cleo, and father, Malcolm, divorced, partially due to the stress from the loss of their children. Her sister, Betsey, is married with two children and has no wish to ever see Ria again. But her eccentric Grandmother Lola and Aunt Cammie are also in the house and welcome her with open arms. Ria's four-year-old son, who looks remarkably like her brother, is welcomed by all.

Ria spends almost two thirds of the story battling her demons and coming to grips with her past. She has to fight temptations and figure out her future. She is portrayed as a vulnerable, confused human being who doesn't always make the best choices, but one who is committed to the one thing she did right her son. He is now her guiding light when it seems as if the rest of the world is her enemy.

One who helps her is Sandor Wolfe, a Russian immigrant who has been living with the Channings. He and Cleo have built a strong friendship. He is a hard worker and determined to make it in the United States. Born of a Russian mother and American father, he grew up in the Soviet Union, knowing hardship and hunger. He sees the refugee in Ria's eyes, yet is attracted to her as he has been to no other woman. Just a few years older than she, he is determined to help both Ria and in turn, Cleo.

Sandor's story is interesting and he slowly exposes his character as a man who has known hurt, but is optimistic about life and expects everyone to give their all to live. He is passionate but tender; an artist at heart, but practical in his manner; and he is smart about when to push and when to back off. I liked him immensely as a hero. Yet he is understated throughout the story.

My only hesitation in fully recommending this story is the absolute sense of despair that coats so much of the tale. Ria is not a happy person and no one around her has dealt with the tragedy, so there is an undercurrent of unhappiness throughout the family. Even Benjy is a happy-go-lucky kid one minute and a boy too wise for his tender age the next; that wisdom coming from too few meals and a recognition of sorrow in his mother.

Yet, this is a story of finding life again. It is uplifting at times, as Sandor and Ria find that love can grow from this unique relationship they have built. But Ria's struggles carry the tale and it makes this a poignant yet painful tale to read.

Forgiveness is a well-written saga, with plenty of emotion. It is intriguing and pulled at me to finish it, but it is difficult to say that I enjoyed it.

--Shirley Lyons

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