Dangerous Passions

Extreme Measures

McIver's Mission

Her Best-Kept Secret

The New Girl in Town
by Brenda Harlen
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1859, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24859-8
I have enjoyed several of Brenda Harlenís previous books and this is another to add to the list. The New Girl In Town is a story of second chances and dealing with the past; luckily for the reader the author handles the tale of a breast cancer survivor with grace and realism with no sign of being maudlin or overly sentimental.

Zoe Kozlowski needed a change. She is one year post recovery of breast cancer, but she is waiting for her divorce papers to come through, she is struggling with the loss of her career and she is feeling stifled by her so-called friends in New York City. So she packs up and moves to Pinehurst, New York, near her dear friend Claire. Claire is married to a local and she too is a survivor. But Zoe doesnít dwell on her disease. She has purchased a run-down Victorian home and is determined to renovate it into a bed and breakfast with her savings. Her mental state is still in a state of flux.

Zoe meets her new neighbor Mason Sullivan when his rather large mixed breed dog makes himself at home on her chest. The exuberant dog knocked the tea out of her hand and seems intent on licking every inch of her face. Mason rescues her and then ends up on her doorstep in the guise of her architect. They work together and as they do, they recognize their attraction. Mason isnít looking for anything permanent. He has a past too. His mother died of cancer, leaving his father heart-broken and dying within two years. This had a profound impact, causing Mason to decide he never wants to love like that and risk like that. Even as Mason and Zoe slowly explore their possible relationship, one can see the conflict rising.

But it is the slow development of this special couple that snares the reader and brings us into the web of their romance. Harlen gives us insight into both of their psyches so that we see how each thinks. We can compare notes while these two try to figure out what the other means, how they think and how they can connect. Their physical attraction just adds to the story.

We learn why Zoe is gun shy and what her ex-husband did to put her in that sense of anxiety. We come to understand why photography is no longer satisfying to her. We explore why Mason is so fearful of love and what he saw his father deal with as his mother lay dying. And we get to know the residents of Pinehurst, who are both friends and support systems to this couple who has so much to give.

Harlen gives us info about breast cancer in a way that it is informative without being depressing. She discusses the fact that there is hope without making the reader feel that she is pushing a cause down our throats. And she writes a very engaging romance along the way.

The New Girl In Town is a nice romance. I enjoyed it because of its characters and their relationship. But mainly I enjoyed it just for the entertainment I got from reading it.

--Shirley Lyons

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