Shades of Honor

Kissing in the Dark
by Wendy Lindstrom
(Leisure, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-5507-4
"Widow" Faith Wilkins has enough to worry about without dating the town sheriff. She's running from a powerful and desperate man while trying to support a small daughter and her adolescent brother. But when her "aunts" - a group of former prostitutes trying to pass themselves off as her family get a good look at this New York lawman, they can't help but think it may be time for Faith to let someone take care of her.

Sheriff Duke Grayson's curiosity is piqued when he visits the new greenhouse in town. Exotic plants line the shelf and even more exotic women promise healing massages. Convinced that the women are up to no good, it's his duty to look into matters. And if that means spending a bit more time with the lovely widow, so be it.

The good sheriff quickly sees that Faith is an honest woman who's overworked and underfed. With the help of his family and friends, he assists Faith's menagerie in making their new home. Along the way, he grows to admire her sharp tongue, agile fingers and persistent nature.

Faith is naturally wary of Duke. She's seen powerful mean use their authority to destroy women all her life. After all, it was a judge who repeatedly used her mother and ultimately killed her. The daughter of a prostitute, Faith isn't an innocent schoolgirl. She's well aware that the attraction Duke keeps calling love, may just be a rampant case of lust. And even if Duke loves Faith Wilkins the widow, what would he think of Faith Dearborn, the girl who gave massages?

Lindstrom does an excellent job of crafting her characters. Tansy, Dahlia, Aster and Iris sparkle as Faith's honorary aunts. The bawdy ladies expertly push the action along, supply great comic relief and have strong subplots. Even Faith's thirteen-year old brother, Adam, gets a compelling storyline of his own. With so much going on in the background, the reader is a bit overwhelmed at first, but each character quickly develops his or her own voice quite rapidly.

The story moves along quite rapidly, with very little time devoted to the usual tired 'will they or won't they' scenarios. Any conflict created within the story is handled realistically and maturely. A story such as this is a breath of fresh air. Imagine, a heroine whose lies aren't just understandable, but actually justifiable; add in a threat that is very real and not exaggerated at all? It all equals a wonderfully touching story.

But Lindstrom doesn't overdo it with touchy-feely elements. Kissing In The Dark is a wickedly humorous tale too. Faith and her family have been exposed to the seedier side of life and have the vocabulary to prove it. In fact, the PG-13 rating for this story doesn't come from the sensuality of the story, but the suggestiveness of the characters.

The best thing about this book though is that it's part of a series. Now, I'm sure you're all wondering what on earth that has to do with my review, so let me tell you. The whole time I was reading Kissing In the Dark, I kept reading about the backstory of Duke's family and thinking that certain members were strong enough to have their own tales. It's a pleasant surprise to find that they do. I'm certain Lindstrom's writing is strong enough to keep me entertained throughout the rest of the series.

--Amanda Waters

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