Absolute Trouble

All Night Long by Michelle Jerott
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-81066-2
What an intelligent and entertaining contemporary romance! What an unusual and appealing hero! What an interesting and attractive heroine! What a good book! Michelle Jerott’s second book shows clearly why many readers consider her one of the most promising new authors to arrive on the scene.

As one list member noted when discussing All Night Long, the hero is neither a cop nor a private detective nor a bodyguard nor a SEAL nor a millionaire. What a relief! Instead, Rik Magnusson is a hardworking dairy farmer who just happens to look and be built like his Viking warrior ancestors. And he has red hair.

Photo-journalist Annie Beckett bursts into Rik’s life because for ten years she has been pursuing a story. She discovered a cache of letters in an old trunk in a relative’s attic which has led her on a quest for justice for a young man who had died 160 years earlier, in the Blackhawk War of 1832.

Lt. Lewis Hudson had been accused of deserting his post. His mother had spent thirty years trying to clear his name and discover his fate. Annie, reading his letters to his mother and to his fiancée, is convinced that Lewis would never have deserted, but rather was the victim of foul play. She believes he met his fate in Black Hawk Hollow, part of Rik’s farm. And she wants to do a photographic book about both Lewis and this long forgotten war which ended in a bloody massacre of the Saux Indians. She needs access to the site, access which Rik is not anxious to grant.

Like so many small farmers, Rik exists on the edge of financial disaster. So he agrees to allow Annie to rent a room in his house and explore his property. In doing so, he opens more than his home; he opens himself to emotions he has not felt since his ex-wife and best friend betrayed him.

All Night Long effectively interweaves Rik’s and Annie’s romance with the quest to discover Lewis’ fate. Particularly touching and charming are the excerpts from the 19th century letters which open every chapter. The reader gets to know Lewis and his beloved Emily and to understand Annie’s fascination with the mystery she has uncovered.

Annie, abandoned by her mother and raised in a series of foster homes, has found in Lewis and his family a sense of the meaning of family and love that she has never known. She has an understandable fear that she is not capable of the kind of commitment that will permit her relationship with Rik to be anything more that a brief affair. She has led a nomadic life, where only her camera and the brilliant images she creates have given her meaning. Can she hope to find happiness with a man whose roots in one place are so strong?

Rik has his own insecurities; he feels that he has failed as a husband and as a father. He has shut himself off from emotion. But he is powerfully attracted to this woman who has forced her way into his life. Is it simple lust or is it something more? Certainly the sex is mind altering (and also lots of fun).

In addition to the romance and the quest for the truth about Lewis, Jerott deals with Rik’s relationship with his teenage daughter and his onetime best friend who stole his wife. She weaves all her threads with a sure hand into a seamless whole that marks her as a most talented author.

It took me a while to get into All Night Long, but once I got caught up in the romance and in the mystery of Lewis’ fate, I didn’t want to put the book down. Jerott has just made her way onto my auto-buy list. This is a very good contemporary romance.

--Jean Mason

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