Undeniable by Suzanne McMinn
(Loveswept # 897, $3.50, R) ISBN 0-553-44636-3
Darn! Wait, that's not strong enough. DARN!! Wouldn't you know it. Undeniable is a wonderful novel by an author who should have a bright future, and heaven knows the category market can use some fresh ideas not centered around cowboys and FBI agents and secret babies, and what happens? The publisher is folding the line at the end of the year! Category readers, do yourself a favor and go find Undeniable and buy it. In fact, buy three or four. Maybe if Suzanne McMinn sells enough copies, another publisher will be smart enough to grab her. We can only hope.

But on to the really good stuff. Divorced veterinarian Garth Holloway has his hands full raising four daughters, who range in age from three to fourteen. Certain that no woman in her right mind would be interested in him, Garth is surprised to find himself bowled over by his neighbor, Kelly Thompson. They meet on Halloween as she rises from her "coffin" on the porch and scares the pants off his youngest.

Kelly has her own plans for the future. She's just finished sending her younger twin siblings off to college, after years of acting as a surrogate mother following their parents' death. Now she is ready to see the world. This isn't so far-fetched, as Kelly works at a travel agency and uses her deep discounts to get great deals on weekend jaunts. Her reaction to her new neighbor, though, makes her re-evaluate her plans.

Garth and Kelly inch toward each other, and the sexual tension in this book is, quite honestly, breathtaking. They want each other. They are sure it won't work, each positive that the other has someone else in mind for a permanent commitment. Finally comes the moment of "oh, what the hell… go for it" and it is stunning, indeed.

The author has a good handle on the attitudes of adolescents and smaller children. I felt her portrayal of the three-year-old was a bit precocious, but the other three rang true. Their escapades added humor to the story (I loved the scene where the seven-year-old feeds a bag of marshmallows to the dog, with the expected result) and humanized this hero who is trying to be a good dad while acknowledging his sexuality. It's a real juggling act.

The cover didn't do the story justice. It features two people reclining in what looks like a haystack (nothing to do with the story) and the "hero" looks like he's all of fourteen years old. Not even a hint of peach fuzz, let alone any laugh lines around the eyes or mouth. It made me uncomfortable. My advice: don't look at the cover. Just grab the book.

Suzanne McMinn offers us the reassurance that category romance CAN feature two "regular" people and be captivating and sexy. For readers who are bored with the ubiquitous ranchers, babies, and women running from killers, Undeniable is a breath of fresh air. Breathe deep and enjoy it. And let's hope there's lots of ink left in her talented pen.

--Cathy Sova

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