Duets 99

The Treasure Man
by Pamela Browning
(Harl American #1111, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-75115-X
The Treasure Man is a nice little romance about a nice little couple set in a nice little town in Florida and they deal with nice little problems that get resolved fairly easily despite their attempts at messing things up. Get the picture?

Nice girl Chloe Timberlake left her home in Farish, Texas because she needed a change from being everyoneís helper. She was her grandmotherís caretaker and she was the giver in every relationship she had. Now she has decided to return to Sanluca, Florida, a nice little town on the East coast where people hunt for treasure in the buried wrecks off the shore and a little old lady watches over the sea turtles just outside the nature preserve. She moved to this little town because she remembers idyllic summers she spent at her auntís bed and breakfast and because she had her first case of puppy love here.

The bed and breakfast has been closed up but Chloe decides to move in and try her hand at making jewelry from the glass shells she finds on the beach. The house needs work but is livable. Not only does she find some unexpected critters (mice and lizards) but she finds the man she used to love.

Ben Derrick is a few years older than Chloe and during that long ago summer when he was 21 and she was 16, he really didnít know she was alive. In fact, rumor had it that at the end of the summer, Ben went off and got married. He was a scuba diver for the treasure hunting company in town and he loved the ocean and adventure. He was a nice guy and Chloe nursed her unrequited love that whole summer.

Now, Ben is back. He is recovering from the loss of his 13-year-old daughter in a fire. Divorced for many years, he is a recovering alcoholic who has hopes of getting rehired by the scuba company. He is harboring some feelings of guilt and yet, is full of enthusiasm as he tries to rebuild his life. He convinces Chloe to let him live at the annex to the house in exchange for keeping out the mice and doing some repairs around the property.

To complicate matters, Chloeís niece runs away and comes to Florida to explore her feelings and gain some independence. Now Chloe has her own feelings to contend with, Ben and all the things he brings to her libido, and her niece, who needs some TLC and help to grow up a little.

The story moves on the strength of the relationships that the three are building and their ability to move on with their lives, each searching for the key to their own inner turmoil. The dialogue is generally engaging and the story is a well-written, simple and fairly predictable tale. Ben and Chloe grow close and it is an adult relationship until they have a misunderstanding, then it reverts to some childish actions. This isnít enough to lose the reader, but it is less than enthralling.

The author throws in some of Chloeís old diary she finds, written back when she was 16. This adds to the sense of childishness, but it isnít too distracting and the excerpts are easily skimmed without losing the flavor of the story. The niece, Tara, is an enjoyable character and is refreshingly not the sarcastic, caustic teen often seen in these storylines. Ben and Chloe are likable, but there is nothing to make them stand out from so many other stories offered these days.

The Treasure Man is just right for a reader looking for a few hours of enjoyment from a nice little story.

--Shirley Lyons

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