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Eye of the Beholder
by Jayne Ann Krentz
(Pocket Books, $24.00, R) ISBN 0-671-52306-6
***
Chances are, if you've read a lot of Jayne Ann Krentz's backlist, you're going to read this book and say, "Sheesh, they gave it a three? It's a rehash!" And if you're a Krentz newbie, you'll likely be indignant that we didn't rate it higher.

Unfortunately for the author, I've read most of her backlist. And this, romance readers, is JAK déjà vu. Solidly written, but déjà vu nonetheless.

Eye of the Beholder opens with a prologue. John Laird Trask arrives at the home of Lloyd Kenyon demanding to know the truth about his father's fatal car accident. Seems that the car slid off Avalon Point and crashed into a ravine (see Perfect Partners) and Trask believes it was no accident. Alexa Chambers, stepdaughter to Lloyd, comes to the rescue and threatens to call the police. Trask leaves. Alexa knows he'll be back – someday.

Fast forward twelve years. Alexa is back in Avalon, Arizona, assisting with the opening of a new resort owned by – you guessed it – Trask. Alexa owns a rather tacky shop full of oddball faux relics (see Wildest Hearts) and caters to the tourist crowd. Until a year earlier, she was a rising star in the art world and an expert on Art Deco works. Blowing the whistle on an employer who was selling forgeries backfired, and now Alexa hopes that her anonymous expertise in assembling an Art Deco collection for Avalon Spa and Resort will be her entry back into respectability.

When Trask arrives for the grand opening, he and Alexa run into one another and recognize each other from that night twelve years earlier. Trask is determined to find out the truth behind his father's death, and Alexa is determined to protect Lloyd. It soon becomes clear that, whoever the killer is, he's still around. As Alexa and Trask fall into an unexpected affair, their lives will be endangered.

For all that I recognized the plot structure immediately, Eye of the Beholder is not without its funny moments, as when Trask demands to know how Alexa could tell he was aroused by the sight of her, and she points out that, in his haste to rescue her, he's forgotten to zip his pants. Trask's chagrin was real, touching in a way that Krentz's heroes usually are. Her heroines have a strong thread of common sense, too, always welcome in a contemporary romance. Rarely will you see a Krentz heroine rushing headlong into danger, heedless of her own safety. They tend to use their heads – and their electronics – to get themselves out of a jam. In this book, it's a cell phone. (In Trust Me, it was a PDA.)

Okay, okay, let's not beat it to death. Eye of the Beholder will please diehard fans of Ms. Krentz, the ones who wait anxiously for the next release and don't mind the sameness that's been creeping into her novels lately. It's sort of like having a seventh helping of a really good cheesecake. Still sort of delicious, but … perhaps enough to make you make you wish the chef would try a new recipe.

--Cathy Sova


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