Amethyst & Gold

As Anne Avery:

Bartered Bride

Fortune's Fancy

The Highwayman's Daughter

Summer Fancy

Sand Castles by Kate Holmes
(Zebra Bouquet #29, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-821-76457-8
Shy sculptor Alys Vincent never expected to find the perfect model for her statue of The Hunter strolling the beach in front of her North Carolina home. Urged on by her friend Judy, Alys screws up her courage to approach the man, who turns out to be photojournalist Jerod Prescott, home for an extended visit while he re-evaluates his career. Blond, Viking-like Jerod is intrigued by the tall brunette who claims she's only interested in his body, and for nothing more than a few poses. He ages to help her, if she'll allow him to photograph her in return.

This turns out to be the one thing that makes Alys uncomfortable. At nearly six feet, her height and her voluptuousness have always caused her embarrassment and pain -- first at the hands of her shrewish, jealous mother, then from her mother's steady parade of boyfriends. Alys retreated into the world of art, and seldom allows herself to be photographed for any reason. But Jerod is too perfect a model to let slip by.

Jerod is jolted out of his ennui by Alys, who is unlike any woman he's met. Why is this beauty so guarded about her looks and privacy? She's a stunner -- doesn't she realize it? Before long Alys and Jerod are lovers, but neither trusts that what they feel is the real thing. Neither knows how to be in love. Neither has felt this strong of an emotion before.

Jerod was portrayed as a rather sensitive, if highly confused, kind of fellow. He knows he doesn't want to return to his former globe-hopping job, but he can't seem to figure out what he does want to do. In the meantime, he treats Alys with respect and consideration, something that unnerves her. As for Alys, she was a bit harder to empathize with, particularly near the end. Let's just say that the climax would not have occurred if Alys had a bit of spine and could assert herself even the tiniest bit. There's more than a shred of victimization stance in her character, and it's not always a comfortable read in that respect. Her growth takes too long.

The secondary character of Judy, the ubiquitous best friend, wasn't clearly defined for all that she showed up in a surprising number of scenes. Vacillating between lascivious (towards Jerod) and martyred (cautioning Alys that love stinks and she, Judy, ought to know), she showed up too conveniently, too often, and added little to the story other than being a plot device.

For all that, Sand Castles is well-written. The prose is clean, the dialogue crisp and realistic, and the setting of the North Carolina seacoast was well-presented. I could almost hear the gulls. You may find it just your cup of tea.

--Cathy Sova

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