Dad for Life by Helen Brenna
(Harl. Super Rom. #1425, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-71425-4
This is Brenna’s second novel for Harlequin and it is filled with information about the Peruvian jungle and legends from the Incan empire. It has suspense, with a child in danger; a couple who have faced hurt and need to work out of it to find love, and a wonderful, albeit brief secondary romance.

Our Dad for Life is Lucas Rydall, an archeologist who is interested in Peruvian treasures. He is hoping to find the Temple of the Rain, thinking that this will lead him to a cup and herbs that will heal, as per an ancient legend. He is the father of Emily, who died of cancer before she was one and a six-year-old named Trevor who is currently living in Seattle with Sydney Mitchell, Lucas’ ex-wife.

Lucas and Sydney were happily married and their lives were full of love, until Emily died. Neither of them handled their grief well. Sydney tried to rely completely on Lucas and Lucas shut down, entering into a deep depression, during which time he illogically decided that Sydney would have been better off if she’d never known him. He left her and in her anger and hurt, she immediately divorced him. This sent Lucas into more depression. But shortly thereafter, Sydney discovered she was pregnant with Trevor. She never told Lucas.

Now Lucas is back, seeking an ancient artifact that they had found together. Sydney had kept it because it reminded her of Emily. Lucas needs it to gather a clue that will lead him to the bowl he is seeking. (This whole legend was very reminiscent of the Indiana Jones tale where the staff of Re showed where the treasure was buried). Unfortunately, also seeking this same artifact is an evil man named Philip Cochran, who thinks he can sell it as the fountain of youth. Lucas leads him to Sydney. Cochran kidnaps Trevor, thinking to force Lucas to find the temple and the secret.

So Lucas and Sydney traipse off to Peru trying to find the item before Cochran finds them. They leave behind Joe Donati, a rogue FBI agent who is willing to search for Trevor without going through channels and Evelyn Dahl, Sydney’s best friend. Their job is to find Trevor and get him to safety. This is the secondary romance and it is fun, engaging and much too brief.

Lucas is still depressed at times and his whole life is based on a fear of becoming so depressed again he will leave. So he keeps pushing Sydney away, despite the fact that he is thrilled to learn about Trevor. Sydney, meanwhile has built a life for herself, but now discovers that she was never whole without Lucas. They spend the majority of the novel going back and forth trying to decide if they love each other enough or if they need to spend life apart.

Interwoven in this story is Peru and her mysteries. There are shamans who provide “guidance,” ancient writings that leave clues, and adventures going down the river trying to reach the hidden temple. While the suspense picked up and the tale moved faster towards the end, there was a dark feel to this tale because of their history and the little hope offered by either of them for their future. The middle of the tale dragged. There is too much exploring and too little action. Their romance was difficult to become engaged in since it didn’t feel like they were good for each other, until almost the end.

This made Dad for Life a mixed bag.

--Shirley Lyons

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