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Enduring Love by Ann Josephson
(Zebra Bouquet 6, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6296-6
***
Enduring Love tackles a theme that is by no means new young lovers separated by conniving parents and reunited years later but it is handled with a sensuality that gives it an interesting twist.

Teenagers Brand Carendon and Dani Murdock fell in love and had to get married. Brand's mother, however, was not going to let her son's chances be ruined by a girl she considered white trash. To break up their marriage, Brand's mother told a whopper of a lie. Dani believed the woman's lies and fled. Brand was told that Dani didn't want him and that she'd aborted their child.

During the next twelve years, Brand achieved glory. As a pro quarterback, he even managed to graduate from law school. Dani didn't fare as well. Without a high school diploma and with a child to care for, she had to work extra hard just to keep her head above water.

Fate deals them a new hand. Brand meets his eleven-year-old son, Dave, when the kid comes to football practice to ask if Brand knows his father. Dave, who's just seen his birth certificate for the first time, discovered that the famous quarterback and his dad shared the same last name. When Brand sees Dani's name on the birth certificate as the mother, the truth is right in front of him. Brand has a son that he knew nothing about.

Brand immediately confronts Dani. Discovering that they were both told lies doesn't alter the situation. Brand doesn't trust Dani; Dani's afraid that Brand will take her son away. Realizing that the press will crucify him and Dani, Brand knows that marriage is their only way to stop the vultures in the press from making their lives hell. But will a marriage for the sake of protecting their son work?

Enduring Love started off with a less than promising beginning. Early on, Dave is told that Brand is his father. Dave's comments to his mother stunned me. "I don't understand. Why would you walk out on him? You're nobody. He's one of the best quarterbacks in pro football." I would think that a boy would feel some allegiance to and some protection for his mother. Even though Dave doesn't exhibit any maternal loyalty, I didn't understand why Brand would allow such behavior from his son.

Dani seemed the less defined of the two characters. She's been poor all her life and is having trouble accepting Brand's "expansive, expensive" lifestyle. Her 'Inferior Me' attitude seemed to permeate the story. She was convinced that she wasn't good enough for him and worried that she'd lose him to one or more of his beautiful fans. From prior experience she knows she's got a witch of a mother-in-law and is still trembling at the thought of dealing with the woman. Her lack of backbone made me wonder why Brand was still attracted to this Milquetoast.

There's a feel of 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' here. Brand gives her jewelry, a fur coat, a Mercedes, a new designer wardrobe and buys Dave some pretty awesome hi-tech toys. I was impressed that the kid got a sports Rolex.

It took a while for me to enjoy Brand and Dani's story. Finally, it all started to jell. After the Big Misunderstanding from their past had been cleared up, I appreciated that Ms. Josephson didn't introduce new ones. Nor did Dani and Brand have one of those tepid marriages of convenience. Oh, no these lovers enjoy a healthy sexual relationship, sensuous and erotic. I also appreciated that there was no constant bickering. Even though they weren't yet committed emotionally, no silly arguments marred the plot.

By the end of the story, Dani and Brand have grown and matured in a believable, realistic manner. The lust that first attracted them is still very much in evidence, but it's now balanced with a caring, healthy relationship. It was slow in coming, but by the end I was finally appreciating Brand and Dani.

--Linda Mowery


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