The Seven Year Secret

Someone to Watch Over Me
by Roz Denny Fox
(Harl. Super. #1108, $5.25, G) ISBN 0-373-71108-5
My experience with Roz Denny Fox is that she tends to write stories that tug at the heart. This one tugs too, but the depth in the story adds so much more. Rather than a current medical crisis like in Seven Year Secret, this story is about a woman recovering from a major tragedy and the man who helps her. Someone to Watch Over Me laments the past while celebrating the possibilities of the future.

Isabella Navarro has lived in the high desert country of Oregon in her Basque community her whole life because that is what was expected. She became engaged, married Julian Arana and gave up her dreams of a college degree to become a wife and mother. Her two children fulfilled her life, while her marriage turned sour. Julian was controlling and secretly abusive. Isabella finally got up the courage to divorce him. Shortly thereafter, Julian put his children, ages 8 and 6, in the car in their closed garage with him and turned on the engine. Isabella came home to find her two children dead and Julian barely hanging on.

Isabella keeps going because she is determined to see Julian convicted of first degree murder, not insanity. She knows he is cruel enough to have done this terrible thing to make her pay for divorcing him. Her hatred and need to see justice done is her only motivation to keep living.

Gabe Poston is a man who has recovered from a hatred of his past. Raised by a loving mother until age 13, his world was turned upside down upon her death. His father denied that Gabe was his child and kicked him out into the streets. Gabe, determined to survive, turned to using his natural math skills and became involved in scams and being a bookie. When arrested at 17, he was given the choice of the Marines or jail. The Marines saved his life. Four men he met there became his family. Special Forces and then a private company later forged bonds that will never be broken. (These men were introduced in Fox’s book Wide Open Spaces).

Gabe, now a CPA with a law degree, has come to Oregon for the wedding of one of these friends, after they saved a ranch in the previous book. He sees Isabella at the wedding and is instantly drawn to her. He is also intrigued because her eyes seem dead, something he hasn’t seen since his Marine Corp days in refugee camps.

Gabe and Isabella are thrown together when Gabe decides to buy a neighboring farm and lay down some roots. He has thoughts of sheep farming. Isabella’s father is a local farmer who has agreed to “apprentice” Gabe to assist him in his decision.

The story progresses through Gabe’s education in sheep farming, to his assisting Isabella with legal work for the trial. The ensuing activities are funny, heartwarming, heart wrenching and romantic. The range of emotions that Fox takes the reader through is what makes this book so engaging.

Isabella’s large family initiates Gabe into sheep farming with open camaraderie and subtle hints to leave their sister alone. One brother in particular is extremely protective. His efforts to make a fool out of Gabe are comical. Gabe’s reactions are typical male. But as Gabe comes to love Isabella, he also sees her family as a godsend that he wants to be a part of, rather than interfering.

Gabe shares his struggle to forgive his father and mother and tries to help Isabella see that she must give up her guilt over the children’s death and learn to “forgive” Julian if she is to survive. Her slow acceptance and learning to live again takes time and seems to be realistic. She takes a step forward and two backward. Gabe allows her room to do this and stays steadfast in his love. He is a truly romantic hero.

Isabella is the kind of woman we all hope to be in the face of this type of tragedy. I can easily relate to her angst and horror and only imagine how she gets up every day. Her bakery, which she opened as her marriage was ending, is her lifeline. Her family wants to be there for her each day, although they don’t really know how to help her. It takes an outsider to see what she needs and provide it for her.

Fox has written a powerful story, with rich characters and real emotions. I highly recommend this one for its wealth of feeling it provokes. Someone to Watch Over Me is a story to return to time and time again.

--Shirley Lyons

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