Pray Love, Remember by Elaine Fox
(Leisure, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-4384-X
****
This is the second historical romance by Ms. Fox that I have read and enjoyed. I'm developing an appreciation for her old-fashioned, soap-opera-like page-turners. I like her sense of drama and her strong, intelligent heroes and heroines. And, I like the fact that she always includes a good, genuine conflict in her stories; a conflict that must be overcome before the hero and heroine can live happily ever after.

In Pray Love, Remember, what was supposed to be a pleasurable trip to Italy turns into a terrible shipwreck, which claims the life of Julian Coletun's father and leaves Julian with no memories of his past. Fear is an unfamiliar emotion to Julian, yet he can neither explain, nor discount, his feelings of anxiety at returning to his family and claiming his position as the seventh Earl of Northcliffe. Julian returns home to find that he has a stepmother, a stepbrother, a young half-sister and a beautiful fiancée. Still, Julian remembers nothing and he trusts no one.

Collette Travers, governess to Julian's sister, remembers Julian, and their love. She and the quiet, serious Julian shared an interest in Mozart and Greek philosophy. They enjoyed exchanging humorous observances in French. Over time, and unbeknownst to Julian's family, their enjoyment of one and other turned into love, and passion. Before he left, Julian pledged himself to Collette and told her he would seek his father's blessing during their trip to Italy. Julian was planning to announce their betrothal as soon as he returned.

Thinking that Julian was dead and lost to her forever was the worst time of Collette's life. Now Julian has returned, but Collette feels like she has lost him again because he looks at her with the eyes of a stranger, and a distrustful stranger at that. Even worse, Miranda Greer, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy marquis, claims that Julian asked her to marry him before he left. And Miranda wants a wedding as soon as possible. Collette doesn't think Julian or anyone else will believe her claim on him is valid.

Even Collette's best friend thinks that Julian promised marriage only so that he could make love to Collette. Although Collette believes in their love and wants to tell Julian the truth about their relationship, Julian's doctor has warned the family that there could be dire consequences to Julian's mental health if he is pushed into remembering too much, too soon. Because of her own mother's mental instability, Collette is terrified of saying anything that would cause Julian to suffer a similar fate. She can only pray that Julian remembers her and their love before it's too late.

Although the drama in Pray Love, Remember might seem old-fashioned, the characters are anything but; Collette is not the passive heroine of old. She is feisty by nature but circumstances force her to keep most of her thoughts and emotions to herself. Collette tries to maintain a calm facade, but inside she is seething over what has happened to Julian and her helplessness to do anything about it. There is a part of Collette that simply wants to blurt out the truth to everyone about her relationship with Julian; there is also a part of her that wants and expects Julian to remember the love they shared.

And, Julian is not the insensitive hero of old. His nature has always been that of a skeptic and without his memory to tell him whom he can trust, he refuses to trust anyone. The few memories that Julian has are not clear and they cause him to doubt himself and the kind of man he is. Considering the number of times Julian has almost been killed during the past month, his lack of trust is easy to understand. While Collette suffers from Julian's treating her as a stranger, Julian suffers just as much over his lack of faith in everyone and especially in himself.

So long as readers don't mind suspending a bit of reality in order to accept the amnesia story line, I think they will enjoy Pray Love, Remember. The book has good romantic roots; that is, it is a simple but compelling human drama. And, although the plot is simple, it is not obvious. This tale includes some fine mystery and suspense; I confess I did not figure out who was the true villain until the very end.

--Judith Flavell


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