For Her Protection
by Lauren Giordano
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1320, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-273908
For Her Protection is Lauren Giordanoís debut novel with the Intimate Moments series. Utilizing a familiar plot line, she nonetheless adds enough twists with well-crafted characters to ensure her position as a frequent contributor. Although pushing the limits of disbelief at times, this is a very good first effort.

Escaping from a drug bust gone wrong, DEA agent Luke Gianetti finds himself hijacking a car driven by Jillian Moseby, with three small children in the back seat. An improbable start, but he quickly convinces Jillian he is a good guy. As they speed away, she makes eye contact with the pursuing thug; Luke fears that she may now be recognized and takes steps to protect her.

In the course of his escape, he sustains a bullet wound in his rear end and, of course, it falls to Jillian to surgically remove it. Jillian has accepted a position as archivist for an Ivy League college so surgery is hardly her forte. However, she manages and through these efforts and other up close encounters she quickly falls in love with Luke.

The background on Jillian is that her mother is an English duchess who disowned Annie, Jillianís older sister. Annie was a drug addict and Jillian flew to the US in response to a cry for help to take Annieís children and protect them. Upon arrival she found Annie dead and the three children with Family Services. They were willing enough to hand over two of the children but she had a court battle for the youngest from an unidentified male, which she managed to resolve in a day or so. (This is a prime example of the need for suspension of disbelief.)

Luke is on the run with them and en route their motel clerk is murdered as they manage to escape two hired killers who have found them. On the way to the safehouse, Jillian loses her way and instead of arriving they spend yet another night in a motel. That night the safe house is blown up, so even trusting Luke has to realize that some inside agent is indeed a double agent or drug kingpin.

Luke's partner finally joins them with more agents and yet more attempts on Lukeís life as the story barrels toward a highly contrived crescendo.

Only toward the end does Luke find that Jillian is nobility and this only adds to his emotional conflicts about not wanting to get involved with another woman after his wife committed suicide.

What makes this improbable set of circumstances work is the characters. Finely drawn, the interplay among the children and adults is entertaining and offers a strong humanistic counterpoint to the plot. The author develops tension well, varying the pacing between the suspense side of the plot and the romance side with the skill of a pro. And there are still a few unexpected twists to keep the reader guessing.

--Thea Davis

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