Blue Moon

Day Dreamer

Glass Beach

The Orchid Hunter

Summer Moon

Loverís Lane by Jill Marie Landis
(Ballantine, $19.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-345-45332-8
Jill Marie Landis has become the latest historical romance author to jump to contemporaries. Frankly, Iím not completely persuaded that the move is a success. While Landisí historical romances were often edgy and unusual, her first contemporary is predictable if pleasant enough. Somehow the emotional resonance found in her earlier books is simply not in evidence.

Landisí hero is that all too common staple of contemporary romance, the private investigator. Jake Montgomery has worked his way up to owning his own small but successful agency. Six years earlier, while working for a larger firm, he had been assigned to the case of the missing Caroline Graham. The young woman and her young son had disappeared from sight after the death of her fiancť.

Rick Saundersí wealthy and powerful parents had not approved of his plan to marry the mother of his son. A waitress at a truck stop, Caroline was not the kind of woman they wanted him to wed. After his death, the Saunders sent their lawyer to pay off Caroline and to gain custody of Christopher. Believing that she had no chance of winning a legal battle with the Saunders, Caroline had fled.

Jake had a personal interest in the case; Rick had been his best friend. He has never quite given up on finding the missing woman and child and a clue brings him to the coastal California town of Twilight Cove. There he finds his quarry. Caroline, now known as Carly Nolan, has made a life for herself and her son. She works in the local diner, sells an occasional painting, lives in a small trailer, and keeps mostly to herself.

Rather than rushing back to Long Beach to inform the now widowed Anna Saunders of his discovery, Jake decides to find out more about Carly and Christopher. Predictably the acquaintance quickly ripens into something more. Jake discovers that Carly is a wonderful mother, that Christopher is a well adjusted kid, and Twilight Cove is a perfect place to put down roots.

Predictably, Carly discovers the truth about Jake before he can come clean. Predictably, Anna Saunders and her nasty lawyer find out what Jake is up to. Predictably, the town rallies to Carly. And Iím sure that you can predict the rest of the story as well.

Sometimes the characters can rise above a hackneyed plot. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Loverís Lane. Jake and Carly are uniformly nice people. Certainly Carly is to be admired for rising above her dreadful childhood and youth. Indeed, she is so eminently admirable that she is almost boring. Landis tries to give Jake an interesting personal history but doesnít really succeed in making him compelling. And then there is the terminally cute Christopher, the perfect child who just wants a daddy.

Given the above, I suppose Loverís Lane should merit a ďthink twiceĒ rather than an ďacceptableĒ rating. The fact remains that Landis is a talented storyteller and, for all its predictability, the book is entertaining. I do recommend that readers look for it in the library or wait for the paperback release rather than pay hardback prices.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the author of Blue Moon, Come Spring and last yearís unusual Magnolia Creek has penned such a predictable contemporary romance. A number of Landisí historical romances reside on my keeper shelf. I can only hope that she returns to the past or finds a contemporary plot more worthy of her talent.

--Jean Mason

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