A Bridge to Love

Shower of Stars
by Nancy Herkness
(Berkley Sensation, $ 5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-19711-5
Take one six-foot-four male hunk with salt and pepper hair and ice blue eyes, and add a five-foot, eleven-inch Nordic blonde with grey-green eyes and hair down to her waist. Mix thoroughly with a very large stray dog, stir a Dark Secret into our hero’s past, and what have you got? You’ve got A Shower of Stars, a sexy, intriguing, well-plotted romance.

Charlie Berglund is a free-lance journalist, traveling around the globe to get material for adventure stories. She has wangled an interview for the New York Times with the elusive meteor hunter, Jack Lanett. Jack never gives interviews. In fact, the only picture she found of him – black and white and grainy – is ten years old. So an interview with Jack is quite a coup.

On her way to the interview, Charlie witnesses a hit-and-run accident that leaves a very large dog lying unconscious in the street. She is dismayed, but never questions what she will do now. The dog must be taken to a vet’s for treatment, but he is too large for her to pick up alone. Fortunately, she is only a block away from Jack Lanett’s Manhattan apartment, so she positions her station wagon to shield the dog from traffic and legs it down the street to Jack’s building.

Between her name and her raspy voice, Jack is expecting to meet a man at the door to his building. Instead he gets Charlie, the five-foot, eleven-inch Nordic blonde. What he doesn’t know yet…but will soon…is that that blonde hair reaches her waist on the rare times that Charlie lets it down.

Charlie and Jack cooperate to get the huge dog into the back of her beat-up Volvo, then he drives her to the nearest emergency vet in the Bronx. (It is during the struggle to move the dog that Jack learns about Charlie’s hair.) Afterwards, it is far too late for the interview, but Jack agrees to reschedule provided Charlie wears her hair down. Charlie agrees. If Jack has a hair fetish, that’s not her problem. Getting the interview is her problem.

The interview goes well, although Jack isn’t very informative about his personal life, and Charlie begins to think that there might be a book in this story, in addition to her article. Charlie has been trying to adopt a baby from China, and her caseworker has hinted strongly that the process might move more quickly if Charlie stopped chasing around the world, “going on potentially risky expeditions.” Staying home to write a book seems like just the thing to alleviate the caseworker’s qualms.

When she puts the book proposal to Jack, he turns her down flat, then comes back with a counter-proposal. They will get married, so that Jack’s wealth can facilitate Charlie’s adoption. (He is a very successful meteor hunter.) In return, Charlie will drop the book project and leave his past uninvestigated. In eighteen months or so, after Charlie has her baby, they will quietly divorce.

Naturally with such a cockamamie scheme, there are many ways – expected and unexpected – that the scheme can go awry. As it does, sometimes predictably…and steamily. Some of the other complications are not so predictable, and it is those complications that add substance to the “marriage of convenience” recipe. I won’t even mention the twist at the end that blind-sided me completely.

Ms. Herkness writes a competent, uncluttered prose, and – if you are an info-wonk like me – there is the added attraction of learning something about meteors. If amazing your friends and family with odd bits of information doesn’t entertain you, I can assure you that you can skim right over the paragraphs that explain what Widmannstatten structures are and not miss anything important to the plot or the romance. I, on the other hand, am going to be taking a more educated look at any meteors I see in a museum.

My overall assessment of what Nancy Herkness has whipped up in Shower of Stars? Yum. Read it.

--Nancy J Silberstein

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