Stay... by Allison Leigh
(Silhouette Special Edition 1170, $4.25, PG)
ISBN 0-373-24170-4
***
Stay . . . is Allison Leigh's first book. This story about the Clay family is teeming with brothers, who, hopefully, will have their own stories. We're given enough of a teaser about each brother that we're ready to read more about this engaging family of men. What a good beginning for a writing career, leaving the reader wanting more.

Stay is not only the title, but the concept and the heroine's plea, both for herself and to the man she's loved since childhood. The story opens with fourteen-year-old Emily Nichols begging twenty-four-year-old Jefferson Clay to let her stay on the Wyoming ranch she's known as home since her parents' death years earlier. Jeff knows that his dad's decision to send Emily to boarding school is the right decision for her. Cutting to the present, twenty-six-year-old Emily now rooms with Tristan, another of the Clay brothers, in San Diego. Jeff is visiting to check up on Emily, although he won't admit that fact to anyone, even himself.

For reasons not disclosed until the end, Jefferson is suffering from injuries which, if not treated, will cause paralysis and subsequent death. Emily still loves him and makes no secret of it. Jeff loves her, but refuses to act on that emotion. Football players should be so hard-headed.

Two problems in this story seemed almost insurmountable. The resolution to each came so late that a three-heart rating for me was inevitable. First, we know that Emily loves Jeff. We see it and we hear it. She gives this man chance after chance. What we're never told is why. It might have been easier to understand why she allowed herself to be rebuffed for twelve years if we had known what she saw in the guy. I liked Tristan, Jeff's brother, better than I did Jeff.

Also, Jeff was a martyr deluxe. Almost until the end he kept telling himself, Emily and anybody who would listen that he wasn't good enough for her, yet he kept finding excuses for being around her. Jefferson was too weakly written a character to keep up with Emily, who was a shining example of a heroine.

Allison Leigh has a bright future as a romance novelist. I really am looking forward to future stories about the Clay brothers. We've been promised Matthew Clay's story in February, 1999. Maybe in those future stories the hero and heroine will be evenly matched.

--Linda Mowery


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