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It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
by Suzanne Brockmann
(Silh. Int. Mom. #896, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-07896-X
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, the sixth book in Suzanne Brockmann's "Tall, Dark and Dangerous" series, is a memorable contribution to this holiday season. Beginning with a brief prologue depicting an assassination attempt and a scene at a nearby hospital, Brockmann's story flashes back to the previous holiday season, at the end of which a woman dies, then progresses to the present Christmas season. Not a light, fluffy story surely, but a truly romantic one with an ending which should satisfy the most demanding fans of this genre.

Daisy Owen and Jake Robinson met during the Vietnam War, when life seemed more precarious. Twenty-five years later, Daisy is a nationally renowned artist, who should be enjoying her friends, fortune and fame during her mid-forties. Instead, thanks to a brain tumor, she is showing her three best friends how to live and die courageously.

Crash Hawken, a.k.a. William, a.k.a. Billy, is Daisy's cousin. From the age of ten, when twenty-something Daisy stormed his summer camp and demanded to take the lonely little boy home with her, Billy was raised by her and Jake. Following in Jake's footsteps, he becomes a Navy SEAL, operating undercover for Jake, now Admiral Jake Robinson, and is routinely involved in secret, international operations.

Nell Burns is Daisy's personal assistant and friend. After sharing the news of Daisy's impending death with Billy, who thinks of Daisy and Jake as parents, Nell must face her own demons. Clearly, this man will want to spend Daisy's last days at their farm. Nell has always been attracted to Hawken, though she cannot bring herself to acknowledge the possibility of a romantic relationship at such a time. Despite a fascination with Nell, Hawken believes there is no future for him with any woman, since he is committed to such a shadowy, dangerous existence.

Some interesting scenes involve her trying to figure out how to address him, Crash, errr Bill, errr William, errr Billy. Being tongue-tied is an unusual state for this woman who functions magnificently as a social secretary, best friend, etc. He and Nell become very close friends before becoming lovers. They fight the urge to become entangled emotionally as each regards that as a crutch in this period of crisis.

Fast forward a year after the five or six weeks at the farm. Suspense, tension, international intrigue, political machinations how does Brockmann fit it all in? All I can say is she does, and, if I say more, it will ruin your enjoyment of the romantic suspense she does so well.

Jake and Daisy are an object lesson in how to have a loving relationship, even that such a thing is possible despite involvement in dangerous pursuits, career demands, etc. Though not the hero and heroine, they are mentors to Billy and Nell.. Anyone who is acquainted with the life-skewing experiences of Vietnam will appreciate the Jake-Daisy factor in this book. Through the one-year flashback as well as some conversations in other parts of the book, a reader develops an appreciation of the romance emanating from this couple.

Clearly, this book has secondary characters who are so expertly drawn, they could be a story unto themselves. Politicians, lawyers and military personnel all have their moments on Brockmann's stage. Additionally, this is the best romantic-suspense category I have read in a very long time. You may think you know the villains early on, but just keep reading.

My only complaint with author Suzanne Brockmann is her choice of the name "Crash" for the hero. Her explanation of the name made no sense when I read it at the beginning of the book, and each time I read the name, the jarring effect was what I consider a real flow-stopper. Though, I have not read the earlier books in this series I realize nicknames among Brockmann's "tall, dark and dangerous" heroes are common, e.g. Harvard, stemming from his alma mater or Cowboy. I feel that struggling with the formality of William versus Billy or Bill would have sufficed. After a while "Crash" seemed downright ludicrous.

Aside from that petty annoyance, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is a wonderful book. It involves decent people, who, aside from being beautiful, handsome etc. and having glamorous, adventurous occupations, struggle with daily issues faced by ordinary people, not just at holiday times. Not to mention the great sledding (you have to read the book!!).

--Sue Klock

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