Lost and Found Bride
by Modean Moon
(Silh. Desire #1235, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-76235-6
Amnesia has been a recurring theme du jour lately. Occasionally we're required to leave logic at the front door, or else we end up having too many questions that really can't be answered. Modean Moon gives us an amnesia theme, but requires that we bring our intelligence. In fact, she insists. Layers and details and nuances keep us on our toes in this subtle, multilayered suspense story.

Richard Jordan finds his wife Lexi after an extended search. She's been in a psychiatric care facility, where she supposedly admitted herself. She's emaciated, is addicted to the drugs that have been used to sedate her, has been held against her will and doesn't recognize Richard.

Richard, with the help of a prosecuting attorney, rescues Lexi from her captors. Now the real quest begins. Months before, Richard had gone to South America to rescue his stepbrother. Lexi hadn't wanted him to go. He and his rescued brother were in a plane crash, with both men sustaining serious injuries. When he returned, Lexi was gone. Witnesses and family members told Richard that Lexi had wanted a divorce. They also told him that Lexi had aborted his child. When Richard discovered that their joint banking account was seriously depleted, he believed that Lexi had indeed left him.

So Richard wants to know why. Why did his happy marriage dissolve in his absence? Why did Lexi leave? Take his money? Self-abort their child? Check herself into a psychiatric facility?

Or did she?

Richard takes Lexi back to his home, hoping that she'll heal and perhaps recover her memory. The cast of characters, some sinister-all unapproachable, and the house itself, dark and foreboding, both lend to the gothic feel of the story. Richard's mother is antagonistic, almost malevolent in her behavior. Richard's brother Greg, crippled from the plane crash, is morose, hostile and embittered. Greg's wife Melissa, a psychiatrist, is unfriendly and icily disaffected. The staff won't speak to Lexi and won't answer any of her questions. Only Richard will talk to her, and he's trying to sort out the reasons for her sudden leave-taking.

Richard is written with depth and texture. He could have been sullen, mistrustful and even surly. He certainly had reason to be. All evidence points to Lexi wanting out and wanting out quickly. That's what bothers Richard and why he's slowly giving Lexi the benefit of a doubt. Things don't add up. The Lexi he knew before her disappearance wouldn't have been capable of such treachery and deception. Ms. Moon has allowed Richard to be human; yes, he's hurt and baffled. But he's also written with enough maturity to have a ‘wait and see' attitude, to treat Lexi decently as the evidence surfaces.

Lexi is a sympathetic character as she tries to uncover her past. She's frustrated when people won't answer her questions. Although she's been told that it will be better if she remembers on her own, her fear and confusion make it difficult to be patient. She's attracted to Richard and trusts him, even though she senses that his trust isn't fully reciprocated. There were times that I wish she'd bitten Richard's relatives instead of silently suffering their censure, but at least her pacifism doesn't make her a nitwit who's afraid of her own shadow.

The mystery deepens when the lawyer who handled Lexi's request for a divorce meets with Richard and Lexi and she doesn't recognize him.

The reason for the complicated deception seemed less than satisfactory, yet it does make sense in a deranged, irrational way. Lost and Found Bride is plot-driven, but with enough character development to make it an extremely satisfying intrigue.

Don't let the amnesia theme discourage you. Here it works well and makes the book a riveting read. The gothic ambience adds a nice touch. Lost and Found Bride is a thoroughly entertaining, engrossing tale.

--Linda Mowery

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