A Hard Hearted Hero

In the Dark

Summer Heat

A Class Act by Pamela Burford
(Harl. Tempt., #746, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25846-1
If you love reunion stories, then I've got the book for you.

It's the fifteen-year reunion of Gabe Moreau's class at Briarfield High School, and standing in the midst of his middle-aged classmates who are now either balding or spreading, Gabe can only focus on one woman: Dena Devlin, the first girl he ever loved and the first girl he ever betrayed. In fact, he'd betrayed her at the same place the reunion is being held, the Briarfield Country Club.

He bumps into Dena as he's leaving the club. The years have been kind to her. She's still as vibrant and stylish as she was in high school, but she also has more confidence, and she holds her head high at the club. The girl from the wrong side of the tracks has made a fortune in developing pet hotels in the northeast -- a fact that grabs the attention of her high school nemesis, Andrea Pittman, who also happens to be Gabe's rapacious law firm partner and wanna-be wife.

Dena has planned to spend the week at the bed & breakfast home of her favorite high school teacher, Ham, out on Long Island's North Fork, and she's dismayed to find out that the rich and handsome Gabe will be staying there, too. Though many years have passed, Dena has never recovered from Gabe's betrayal. She had believed that there was a spark, a once-in-a-lifetime connection between them, even though they were so young -- but it only took one night between Gabe and Andrea Pittman to throw cold water on their plans.

During the week-long reunion at Ham's relaxing and spacious Long Island home, Gabe and Dena get reacquainted by discussing the events of the traitorous evening fifteen years before and navigating the obstacles thrown in their way by well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) classmates who are also staying at Ham's place. It's not long before the spark re-ignites, and Gabe and Dena succumb to the flames of their desire.

I enjoyed A Class Act for many reasons, first of which is that Burford focused on the internal conflicts between Gabe and Dena, and used the external conflicts to bring them closer together. Dena, understandably, doesn't trust Gabe, and Gabe wants nothing more than for Dena to trust him. I felt that the two characters responded to each other honestly -- when there was a misunderstanding, they opened up to each other. There wasn’t a lot of wondering and worrying about conflicts the could be resolved with a question and an honest answer. The dialogue between Gabe and Dena was snappy and sexy -- in places, it reminded me of the repartee between Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in the old "Moonlighting" television series.

I also liked Dena. She was funky and different, confident but not cocky. One of the best parts of this novel was reading about the get-ups this woman wore -- everything from her high-heeled mules to her exotic lingerie. I got an itching to visit Bloomingdale's immediately to improve my regular wardrobe of denim overalls and T-shirts. Another thing that may interest readers: Dena is no little lady. She's 5' 9", well padded, and not afraid to eat.

There were a couple of things that annoyed me, such as the running hostility between Andrea and Dena. Andrea came across as purely evil, the-too-thin-too-cold-too-rich career woman/attorney from hell. Some of the exchanges between the two characters seemed too over-the-top, too good-versus-evil. Also, at the end of the novel, I felt that Gabe's snobby parents reacted to Dena's presence in Gabe's life in ways that weren't quite believable. And lastly, I felt that Gabe seemed a little tame, but in comparison to the colorful and larger-than-life Dena, I figured she'd bring a little excitement into his buttoned-up lawyerly existence.

One last thing. I really enjoyed the book's setting on the North Fork of Long Island. It's a lovely, romantic place, and a setting that is rarely seen in a romance novel, for some odd reason. Once you read A Class Act, you may find yourself looking for a romantic bed and breakfast out on Shelter Island.

--Diana Burrell

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