Simply Wonderful by Shelby Lewis
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, G) ISBN 1-58314-127-8
I have read a lot of romances where amnesia figures prominently in the storyline. I cannot readily recall reading a romance in which the hero was suffering from memory loss. I suppose that’s why I took a liking to “John Doe,” the hero in Shelby Lewis’ Simply Wonderful.

John Doe isn’t your average romance novel hero. Granted, heroines have often gone to great lengths to find their heroes. But you’ve got to admire a woman like Daisy Rogers. It sure takes a special woman to find heroic qualities in a man with no name whom she literally found in a compost heap in the middle of the night.

And Daisy Rogers is a special woman. She is part of a dying breed: a true good Samaritan. Armed with good instincts and a bravado gleaned from avid mystery novel reading combined with a cell phone, a flashlight and a lethal German shepherd named “Cutie Pie,” Daisy rescues the badly beaten man. She is willing to take John Doe at face value and lend a hand to her fellow man.

Those who know and love Daisy best - her assistant, her mother, the town doctor and the sheriff - are understandably concerned by this most recent random act of kindness. She has taken in stray and wounded animals before. But this is different. Not to worry, Daisy is no small-town simp. She knows her limitations. Daisy is amazed that people “assumed because she was nice, she was also naive.”

Daisy and her John Doe make a good team. They try to uncover the secrets of his past while dealing with the present. While “John” knows Daisy has nothing to fear from him, he is concerned that whoever dumped him at her doorstep will come back to look for him, thereby placing Daisy in harm’s way. Daisy comes face to face with the disparities between fictional mysteries and the living breathing kind.

As they try to unravel the mystery of who he is and how he got to Guthrie, Oklahoma, there is a growing attraction between Daisy and John. (The jacket cover reveals his identity and of course, it is later resolved in the book. But I won’t.) Their relationship develops naturally and honestly, never overshadowing the suspense. In some ways that is part of the novel’s shortcomings as a romance.

The main characters are drawn from the inside out. We are told that he is a very big man and she is a slightly built woman. The development of the characters takes shape from the author’s strong definition of their internal makeup. Secondary characters add shading to the story. Each display elements that could lend themselves to their own stories at a later time. The ending hints at a possible continuation of the couple in a relationship similar to the relationship of Susan and Spenser in the popular Robert Parker mystery series.

Simply Wonderful is a novel with an emphasis on the first word. It is simply a very nice little story, albeit light on the romance, that may appeal more to visitors to our sister site, The Mystery Reader. The lightness of the romance and the HEA poses a rating dilemma for me that I’ve solved by rating it a very strong three for TRR readers and a modest four for the TMR crowd.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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