Cinderella For a Night

Dream Groom

Living On the Edge

Prince Charming, M. D.

Quinn's Woman

The Rancher Next Door

The Sheik's Kidnapped Bride

The Summer House

Sweet Success

The Wedding Ring Promise

Wife in Disguise

Wild West Wife

Prodigal Son
by Susan Mallery
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1729, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24729-X
During their business school years, Samantha Edwards and Jack Hanson were good friends, study mates and, for one highly memorable night, lovers. Now, ten years later, Jack's father has just died, and Jack has agreed to preside over the family business, the Hanson Media Group, for three months. He is not too happy about giving up his criminal law practice to sort out things in the ailing firm, but he has no regrets about one of his first hires: Samantha Edwards.

After an unhappy marriage and a bitter divorce, Samantha is more than delighted to be named the new head of marketing. Not surprisingly, their old friendship and new professional association soon develops into something quite different.

Before Jack and Samantha can plunge wholeheartedly into a permanent relationship, they have to resolve some personal issues. Samantha is afraid that all men will turn out to be either like her rich absentee father, unloving and distant, or her ex-husband, generous and kind from afar, but controlling, abusive, and downright cruel up close. This is also the reason why she steered clear from Jack all those years ago.

With a mother who passed away when he was a child, a father who devoted himself to his work, and a fiancée who died a week short of their marriage, Jack is afraid that everyone he loves will leave him - including Samantha. Initially, he harbors some insecurities about the way she refused to pursue their relationship when they were students. Then, when they can no longer hide their mutual attraction, he has a hard time understanding why she keeps playing hot-and-cold. Only once they open up to each other can they begin to work through their past disappointments and towards new beginnings.

To its credit and unlike many continuity books I have recently read, Prodigal Son doesn't spend a lot of time setting up the next novel in the series. Members of the Hanson family, who will undoubtedly star in future books, make an appearance here (or, at the very least, are alluded to repeatedly), but the novel is very much focused on what is happening between Samantha and Jack.

Unfortunately, there is not all that much going on between them. Although their relationship progresses, many scenes are a repeat of the same. Moreover, Jack is, despite everything, so quick to bond with Samantha, that I couldn't help feeling that his dead fiancée was tossed into the mix to give him more conflict and to ensure he has as many issues as Samantha.

Thrown into this character-focused story are a number of suspicious events concerning the running of the firm. One of them is resolved within these pages, but not exactly in a manner that would satisfy serious mystery readers. The culprit springs from nowhere, and the resolution reeks too much of authorial intervention. Nothing more than blind faith justifies the initial triage between the innocent and the guilty. The other puzzle remains unaddressed and will undoubtedly form the focus of future installments. Quite honestly, the suspense is not enough for me to join the countdown to their publication. If Prodigal Son sets the standard, they are bound to be passable, but not highly memorable reads.

--Mary Benn

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