After That Night

The Daughter Dilemma

That Man Matthews

Misfit Father by Ann Evans
(Harl. Super. #1331, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0373-71331-2
Ann Evans likes to pull at your heartstrings and in past books, she has come close to sliding into the melodramatic. In Misfit Father, she has found the right mixture, making the story a mature tale of righting the wrongs of the past and finding a bright future.

Set in Broken Yoke, Colorado, this tale revisits the DíAngelo family and brings us Rafeís story. Rafe is the black sheep. He and his father, Sam, had a major falling out when Rafe was just 18 resulting in Rafe being banished. He has spent the last 12 years roaming, being a playboy and a badass, and finally spending the last five years with a mentor who taught him business and the ability to deal with his life. He has moved back to the family because of one mistake. Eight years ago during a one night stand, he conceived a daughter, Frannie, whose mother told him this as she was dumping Frannie on his doorstep so she could marry a rich sugar daddy. Frannie looks like Rafe so there is no question of paternity. He wants to make a life for her.

Rafe purchased property in the middle of town, an old Victorian showplace that used to be a brothel, then a dance hall in the 1950ís and finally a disco club in the 70ís. It is known as the Three Bís. It has been closed up and is also said to be haunted. Rafe has always been fascinated by it and spent many an evening entertaining girls with his prowess as they snuck into the rundown building for a little petting. Now he wants to turn it into a set of condos and help rejuvenate the town. This will give him an income and keep him from living off the familyís business, the Lightning River Lodge.

Rafe is also enlisted (through machinations by his older brother and his father) to help the town with public relations of their spring/summer festival, a task he does not relish. Until he discovers that the person at the newspaper office is Danielle Bridgeton. Dani and Rafe met a few years ago when both worked in Vegas. Dani was working as an undercover journalist trying to nail some embezzling city officials. To do so, she worked as a showgirl in the casino where Rafe was a pit boss and known as Oz (as in Wizard of, as in a wizard with women and master of all). One night Oz saved Dani from being raped. But because she was also drugged, her memory is fuzzy and she is convinced that he took advantage of the situation and her. Needless to say, trust is definitely a barrier to true love.

As they meet and agree to keep the past in the past (easier said than done) they realize they do share an attraction. And Dani is amused in a lovable kind of way to see Rafe struggle with his daughter, who totally baffles him. She also is further attracted as she sees a new side to Rafe, that of a softer, gentler, caring man. Rafe finds himself drawn to Dani as she sets herself the task of discovering the identity of the skeleton they find in a trunk in an abandoned room at the Three Bís. Who was the man they have nicknamed ďThe Accordion ManĒ because he was found with an old accordion, circa late 1890ís?

This story has old misunderstandings, new love, father-daughter scenes, past hurts, a murder mystery and that traditional wonderfulness of small town living. There is humor that is based on funny events in the lives of the townspeople. There is also heartache as the parties confront their past and try to build a bridge to a better relationship for the future. The misunderstandings are a tad disconcerting but Evans has the characters confronting each other just in the nick of time. The wonder of small town living is demonstrated through the quirks and characteristics of the people who live there. This look at some nice people acting fairly normal saves the script from being sugary sweet.

I have read many of Ms. Evansí tales and this is the best I have read for an overall enjoyable reading experience. Pick up a copy of Misfit Father and then go find her previous tales about the Lightning River Lodge to catch up with the other members of the DíAngelo family.

--Shirley Lyons

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