Destiny Smith by Helen Mittermeyer
(Loveswept #886, $3.50, PG) ISBN: 0-553-44629-0
**
Destiny Smith goes to Waikiki to regroup after her father's untimely death. She is a former FBI agent who now faces the daunting task of heading her father's company. She needs a little . . . R&R. What she gets is a gorgeous hunk named Brace Coolidge whom she meets surfing. They enjoy sun, surf, sand, sex and each other. Three days later, they are married and set off for a honeymoon in Tahiti.

Destiny Smith, the novel, begins five years later. The honeymoon is over. Brace and Destiny are getting divorced. What went wrong?

Brace, the beachcomber is actually John Braceland Coolidge of the California Coolidges, the scion of the Mendez-Coolidge Corporation. Destiny is the only daughter and CEO of Smith-O'Malley. Their marriage three-parts passion, with an equal measure of merger and family feud was destroyed by external pressures and some unexplained incriminating photographs. Brace claims he was set up and that the photographs were doctored. But Destiny doesn't believe him, cannot forgive his infidelity and tries to end the marriage. She is thwarted by Brace who wants to win her back and refuses to sign the papers.

On what is probably the busiest afternoon in this story, two abused and neglected children literally show up on Destiny's doorstep. Later that afternoon, Brace happens by. And after feeding and clothing the children and hearing their tale of woe, Brace and Destiny decide to stay together temporarily for the sake of the children.

Clyde Smoot, their children's sleazy, greedy father, isn't far behind. When Clyde threatens Destiny and attempts are made on her life, Brace has yet another reason to embed himself into her world.

The relatives generally are not pleased by the reconciliation. The main characters are certainly likeable. They obviously care for each other and the children. They have a group of friends and neighbors so supportive one wonders why characters as intelligent and loving as Brace and Destiny ever let their shallow relatives muddy their relationship in the first place. (I've got to add here that Destiny Smith and her two best friends Divinity Brown Blessing and Dynasty Jones are names I found more befitting strippers or desperados than Yokapa County, New York new guard.)

Destiny Smith is a very confusing story. The narrative often wanders. After a very scattered beginning, the plot picks up near the middle of the book. But the reader never gets a feel for who Destiny and Brace really are. Destiny's FBI training and work aren't really a factor as the story develops. The couple's work as high-powered executives often kept them apart during the beginning of their marriage, but the introduction of children into their lives seemed to make things run smoother. And, by the time we learn why their families vehemently opposed their marriage, we no longer care.

There are strange ghostly appearances scattered throughout the novel. The author introduces several other elements that are neither satisfactorily explored nor resolved by the end of the novel. Or, there are resolutions that have not adequately been set up.

Destiny Smith could have been an enjoyable romantic suspense story about second chances. Instead, its loose plot and meandering style miss the mark.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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