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Legend by Dinah McCall
(Harper, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-06-108701-7
****
This must be my week for crying. I mean, I found myself tearing up a couple of times while reading the Signet Christmas anthology. But while reading Dinah McCall's most recent single title, I wasn't just tearing up; I was out and out crying. Once again, she got me. She sure does know how to tell a story that engages this reader's emotions.

. Legend is a multi-layered tale. It is a paranormal based on a supposed Apache legend. It is a story of two lovers separated by fate and family who find each other again. And it is an tale about the destructive power of evil, greed and selfishness.

Twelve years ago, seventeen year old Raine Beaumont left the small Arizona town of Oracle when her parents moved. She left feeling betrayed and abandoned by her love, Joseph Colorado. Now she is coming back to take care of some unfinished business. She has one request to make of Joseph.

Joseph is stunned to see the woman he had loved and who, he believed, had betrayed him walk back into his life. He is even more stunned at the request she makes. She wants to move the body of the stillborn son she had given birth to almost twelve years ago from an impersonal cemetery in Chicago to his father's land.

Joseph is distressed to learn that Raine had borne him a child and lost the baby before she even held him in her arms. He is devastated to discover that their parting had been engineered by her father who objected to an Apache dating his daughter. He is saddened to realize that, in his youthful pride, he had left the girl he loved to suffer alone.

Joseph is certainly willing to agree to Raine's request, but he wants to know why. He discovers that she suddenly has given up her job at the Tribune and is leaving the city to travel around the world. She wants her son to be where his grave can be tended.

Raine discovers that Joseph has matured markedly, that he seems older and wiser than his years. And, indeed, such is the case, for Joseph has become the hereditary guardian of the healing place, a place known to only a few, whose powers can defeat any disease.

But knowledge of the healing place has come into the wrong hands. Stuart Damon Rossi III has lots of money and little time. A hemophiliac, his also suffers from congestive heart failure. When he sees a young woman who only months before was dying of AIDs but who is now the picture of health, he wants to know how this miracle has happened. And he is willing to kill to get this knowledge.

Thus, we have the essence of the Legend. McCall is a gifted storyteller whose characters are deftly drawn. If Joseph seems larger than life, well, after all, he has been touched by the mysteries of the universe. Raine has her secret, a secret that she finds she cannot share with Joseph even after they learn to love again. She is a woman who has suffered more than her share of pain and sorrow, and she needs Joseph's healing love and healing place. The secondary characters Joseph's weak brother and the evil Rossi are likewise fully developed characters.

I am not an avid fan of paranormal romances, but somehow McCall always makes me suspend disbelief and accept that there are forces in the universe that are not accessible to my alarmingly prosaic mind. Most of all, she makes me care about her characters. Legend is no exception to this rule and I heartily recommend the book, especially to those who don't mind smeared mascara.

--Jean Mason


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