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Hawk's Woman

Until You by Janis Reams Hudson
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1210, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24210-7
Thirty-year-old Anna Collins has finally paid off her late parents' debts and has saved enough money to enroll in college classes. When she pulls up her rickety garage door and sees her younger brother's motorcycle in the garage, her euphoria plummets. The only reason Ben ever visits the family home in Oklahoma City is to borrow money, money that he's not yet begun to repay. Anna is his only relative and has been his guardian ever since their parents' death twelve years earlier. She's used to taking care of Ben and cleaning up his messes, but she strongly resents his visit now.

He's asleep on the couch. Anna ignores him until the next morning when she discovers, much to her surprise, that it's not Ben, but one of his friends who's been snoring on her couch. Gavin Marshall, Ben's mentor-of-sorts, knows all about Anna. He knows that Anna has always helped Ben out of jams. Gavin doesn't think that highly of her, though. He doesn't hide the fact that he considers Anna an enabler, allowing Ben to wallow in selfishness and immaturity. Secretly, Anna agrees, but knows that she'll always help little brother Ben.

This time Ben has gone too far. He's taken Gavin's vintage Corvette. In addition to the money he owes Gavin, he now has the beloved 'vet, too. Gavin has decided to stick around and wait for Ben, knowing that he always comes to Anna when he needs money. Anna's house is the best place to wait for his car to show up. Anna doesn't have the brute strength to throw Gavin out, so she's got an unwelcome house guest.

As the days progress, Anna begins to bloom under Gavin's attention. This man is kind, funny, sexy and keeps the true extent of his occupation a secret until near the end. For the most part, Anna is exactly as Gavin sees her. She's prim, stiff, serious and about as exciting as watching the phone ring. Truthfully, I don't understand what draws Gavin to her. That's my problem with Until You. Hudson has been so successful in convincing me early on that Anna is colorless that her transformation from a figurative ugly duckling to swan isn't believable.

A comedic masterpiece scene ensues when Anna, in the middle of the night, sits down on the toilet, only to discover that Gavin has left the whole thing up lid, seat and all. Most of us know what a quicker picker-upper that experience is. Anna is screeching, both from the shock of the cold water and the ignominy of the situation. Gavin rushes into the bathroom and quickly realizes his masculine goof.

He took another step out into the hall and tried to choke back a snicker. It wasn't funny, he told himself. A woman falling into the toilet really wasn't funny. "Now, Anna."

She advanced on him again. "Did you know we have a Make My Day law in Oklahoma? Being threatened in my own home gives me the legal right to kill you."

Perhaps you'll have more luck accepting Anna's transformation. I know that Gavin is A-OK. If you like Anna better than I did, then Until You just might work for you.

--Linda Mowery

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