The Last Santini Virgin

Marine Under the Mistletoe

Finding You & Knowing You
by Maureen Child
(St. Martins, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-98920-2
Here we have two books for the price of one, and delightful romances they are. Finding You and Knowing You are two stories about the Candellano family of Chandler, California. Another story follows in June.

Finding You introduces the family and centers on the 25-year-old daughter, Carla. Carla is a searcher by trade. This is a person who works with dogs and participates on search and rescue missions when someone is lost, when disasters strike, or when law enforcement needs help. But Carla is “retired”, having quit when she could not find a little boy she had become friends with and who died while lost in the forest. She is back home in Chandler, trying to heal her heart and rebuild her life.

This healing is helped along by a lonely man named Jackson Wyatt and his young daughter, Reese. Reese is six years old and mute since a car accident killed her mother, an accident that Reese survived. Jackson has done everything to help Reese regain her speech and be her former playful self. He moves to Chandler, a little town on the ocean, thinking a change of scenery will help her. What he finds is a wonderful neighbor in Carla and a little bit of “Mayberry”.

He and Carla don’t fall easily, but fall in love they do. Both characters are ready for love and their journey is poignant, happy and romantic. Reese is written as a little pathetic, but the author doesn’t go overboard in the melodrama department. The only down side to this story is the stereotypical portrayal of Reese’s maternal snobbish grandparents.

Knowing Youa little more complicated of a story. Stevie Ryan is Carla’s best friend. Her own father recently died and her mother was never one to love her; she only shipped a young Stevie off to boarding school. But when Stevie came to live with her father, she found home and family, in the form of the Candellano’s. In the past, Stevie was the girlfriend of Carla’s brother Nick. But Stevie broke that off when she found him in bed with another woman.

Now a few years later, Stevie is surprised by a growing passion for Nick’s twin, Paul. Paul and Stevie have always been friends. Paul has had a crush on Stevie but never acted on it because of Nick. One night, on Carla’s wedding night, in fact, one thing leads to another and Stevie and Paul end up in bed. Now their battle of “do I or don’t I” love rages on. Their journey is full of surprises and struggles, loving and arguing, caring and shying away. Ultimately true love carries the day.

I look forward to the third book in the series, although I am not sure I will like Nick, as he comes across in these stories as a little self-centered. Third brother Tony is already married and his marriage hits a rocky road in Finding You. He and his wife Beth work out their problems in an engaging side plot. The family member who pulls all together is Mama. She is portrayed as a smart Italian matriarch who loves her children, who meddles a little, but who is always there for them. Her love for her children shines through.

Finding You has a little more substance to the story, partially due to the subplot of Carla’s work. Knowing You is written as more of a pure romantic comedy in the style of the old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies. I enjoyed them equally, although they definitely pull at the heartstrings more than I generally like. The sexual action is heated at times, but I didn’t find it overwhelming, hence the PG-13 rating.

Fall in love with this delightful family with these two tales and prepare yourself for the next installment.

--Shirley Lyons

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