Remembrance
by Marcia King-Gamble
(Arabesque, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7860-504-1
****
When Charlotte "Charlie" Canfield went off to begin her freshman year at Mount Merrimack College, she knew her life would change. She never knew how much.

"Freshman year she'd been the timid one, the one with metallic braces and wall-to-wall zits." Her suite mates -- Niki, Kim and Lisa -- were "three of the best-looking women the college had recruited." But it was Charlie who caught the eye of gorgeous superjock, Devin Spencer. And it was Charlie who was forced to leave at the end of her freshman year because she was pregnant.

Unable to contact Devin and desperate to give her unborn child a name, she married Tarik Connors who -- not coincidentally was Devin's roommate and best friend. Tarik always wanted what Devin had. He now had both his girl and his baby.

Fast forward to the present . . . The braces are gone and her skin has cleared up. Charlie is a self-assured, divorced, single mother. Her daughter, Kasey, is a freshman at Mount Merrimack. Charlie eventually finished college and now co-hosts a popular radio talk show.

Remembrance begins as the Class of 1980 is about to set sail for the Caribbean aboard the cruise ship, "The Machination." And, although Charlie didn't actually graduate with her class, Kim convinces her to go. She "could hardly wait to see them and catch up on the gossip." The reunion will also get her away from an overzealous fan who has increased his disturbing phone calls to her.

The cruise begins and the suite mates are reunited. Kim is now the oft-married Kimberly Morgan-Smith-Goldberg-
Daniels-Rosellini-Morgan, a former Playboy bunny and "Pet of the Month," who now runs a dating service called "Coffee Mates." Lisa is a divorced jewelry designer and Niki is a single pediatrician. And, yes, they're all still beautiful.

Many of their classmates are on board. Among them, Charlie's ex-boyfriend Devin Spencer. He finished Mount Marrimack, went on to get an MBA degree and is a successful advertising executive. Devin still doesn't know why Charlie left him for his roommate or that he is Kasey's father.

But Charlie's obnoxious, heavy-drinking ex-husband is also at the reunion and could tell him at any time. And, after Charlie receives a disturbing note, it appears that her phone calling "fan" has become a stalker and has followed her on the trip.

When an emergency forces Charlie to leave the cruise, it is Devin -- not Tarik -- who is at her side. It is at this point, when they leave the reunion cruse, that Remembrance throws away the potential of being a really good romantic suspense novel and settles for being a nice suspenseful story about misunderstandings and second chances.

Sadly, the reunion cruise was just a device to get the two main characters together. (This is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just not where I thought the novel was headed.)

I found the possible plot twists that could occur during the cruise so intriguing I was pulled into the book. The ship's name, "The Machination," even created a mysterious aura. Aboard the ship and in unfamiliar ports, Charlie had no escape from the stalker or from her past secrets. By having the main characters leave the cruise, the author also effectively narrowed the list of stalker suspects.

Some of the best tongue-in-cheek dialogue among all the characters takes place aboard the ship. Alluding to their failed romance, Devin tells Charlie: "I booked a single. I've never done well with roommates." It's another reason I wish more of the action could have taken place during the cruise. Because stalking is such a serious issue, the story could have used a bit more comic relief.

Remembrance's reunion cruise premise was so strong. The novel could have sustained a secondary romance or two. The relationship between the main characters is both powerful and believable. It was obvious that they were friends as well as lovers and that they still love each other.

The book has a few loose ends and unanswered questions. Will the former Playboy bunny finally tell off the chunky, loudmouthed classmate who took every opportunity during the reunion to embarrass her? Will the balding geek end up with the girl he's wanted since biology class?

Marcia King-Gamble is an emerging author. This is her first novel. Despite its flaws and missed opportunities, I still liked it. Remembrance is a warm love story and an interesting read.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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