In Search of Dreams

Meant for Each Other

The Prodigal Daughter
by Ginna Gray
(Mira, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-5516-603-0
Okay, I admit it. I couldnít suppress an internal groan as I began this book and realized that the heroine was a supermodel. Itís not that I have anything against supermodels, itís just that I already feel so saturated with their presence in real life that Iím not particularly inclined to want to read novels about them. However, it didnít take me long to throw out my prejudices and get completely caught up in Ginna Grayís absorbing tale.

Maggie Malone is back in Ruby Falls after being away for seven years. She left after a major rift with her father and has never been back since. One day, she receives a frantic call from her mother who tells Maggie that her father is gravely ill, so she returns. She had a reputation as a hellion and a troublemaker and she doesnít expect a warm welcome in Ruby Falls - and she doesnít get one. The gossip mill kicks into full gear the instant she rides conspicuously into town with her flamboyant sports car and her audacious attitude.

Maggie quickly discovers that her fatherís health is not the only thing to have declined in the last seven years. The family business, a fruit cannery and mainstay of the Ruby Falls economy, has had a run of bad luck and there are rumors that it may close down. Maggie had always hoped to be a part of the business before the rift with her father, and, in spite of herself, gets involved in trying to figure out whatís been going wrong.

Along with its changing fortunes, the cannery has some new employees. One of them is Dan Garrett, the general manager. Heís heard a lot about the infamous Maggie Malone and isnít too happy to see her back. They never met in their youth, not only because Dan is a few years older than Maggie, but because they wouldnít have traveled in the same social circles: she was the bossís daughter and he was just a lowly fruit picker in the orchards. His dislike of Maggie, however, doesnít have anything to do with the rumors. Heís just not too impressed with a woman who has not bothered to visit her gravely-ill father, even though heís been ill for some time. What he doesnít know is that itís Maggieís father who hasnít wanted to see her, not the other way around.

For Maggieís part, she canít figure out why Dan puts her on edge. Sheís used to dealing with men effortlessly, but this one isnít like any man sheís met before and her bag of tricks doesnít seem to work with him. Slowly, Dan begins to see that Maggie is not what she seems, and Maggie begins to see that things in Ruby Falls arenít what they seem, either. Someone doesnít want her nosing around and tries to scare her away.

Ginna Gray has written a tightly-paced story with a fine balance between the romance and the suspense. The relationship between Maggie and Dan, implausible though it could be in the hands of a less skilled writer, builds beautifully, with lots of sizzle along the way. Aside from a couple of instances, most of Grayís secondary characters are well-drawn and three dimensional. I also have a minor quibble with the easy-to-spot villain. However, these really are minor beefs.

The cover blurb tells us that Gray is known for her Ďability to develop plotlines involving complex family dynamicsí. In The Prodigal Daughter, she does it again. The subplots are skillfully developed and Gray weaves all the threads together and sweeps us along to an end with a satisfying conclusion. Ginna Gray fans will enjoy having another offering to anticipate and romantic suspense fans new to her books will undoubtedly seek out other Gray titles after reading The Prodigal Daughter.

--Tina Nigro

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