East Loving by Sheryl Lynn
(Harl. Intrigue #467, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-22467-2
***
Catherine St. Clair, has returned to the Colorado Springs area with an excellent reputation as a children's book illustrator. Now 28, she has come a long way from the nerdy, awkward, overweight teenager who lost the roll of the dice in one fleeting day of passion with Earl (Easy) Martel.

When he discovered her pregnancy, Catherine's abusive, attorney father quickly banned her to another state to finish her high school education. At 16, essentially alone and without financial support, she very reluctantly placed her daughter for adoption. Easy's enlistment in the army midway through his senior year without a second glance her way, hurt Catherine almost as much as giving up their child.

Catherine's realtor, Jeffrey Livman, is pressing her to marry him after a relatively short courtship. But with her past experience constantly in mind, Catherine resists all opportunities to trust and love again.

Easy Martel is self-employed in the Colorado Springs area as a private investigator. He had actually graduated mid-term his senior year, and left the area unaware that Catherine was pregnant. Of course the letters he written to her had been intercepted by her father and destroyed. (Where have we heard that before?)

Easy's quirky sister Trish brings John, one of her co-workers, to him with a case. John is convinced his sister Roberta was murdered by her husband who collected $500,000 from her life insurance policy. The facts of the case were consistent with an accident and the police closed the investigation. John is looking for sufficient evidence to reopen the case.

Easy doesn't do murder cases. He quickly changes his mind when he learns that the suspected murderer, Jeff Livman, is about to propose to Catherine St. Clair. Having not realizing Catherine has returned to the area, Easy is determined for "old times sake" that she will not become another victim.

Catherine is not pleased when she opens her front door to Easy. Unable to control her bitterness, it doesn't take him long to find out about their child and he threatens to search for her. Emotionally fragile at best where Easy is concerned, Catherine tosses Easy out of the house.

The plot is almost overly intricate, and the book is populated with characters that are slightly out of focus for me. Easy is too cavalier Catherine has too much baggage Jeff is too predictable John is too much of a wimp to be spearheading an investigation and the resolution of the plot is too Easy.

Although this novel suffers from a surfeit of excess, the rekindling of the romance between Easy and Catherine is the most plausible part of the book. For this reason, the book is an acceptable and very Easy read. (Puns Intended)

--Thea Davis


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