North Star Rising by Caragh O'Brien
(Loveswept 887, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-553-44635-5
Outdoor naturalist Amy Larkspur is more at home in cut-offs and T-shirts than she is in the bridesmaid dress she is wearing. Escaping from last minute wedding preparations, she stands on a balcony overlooking a lake, idly watching an expert canoer. As he draws near she makes eye contact with a breathtakingly handsome man. In a very short time she discovers Josh Kita is a groomsman and her escort at the wedding. Josh is quickly attracted to Amy, but drives her off by humiliating her at the reception.

Amy returns to her job as an outfitter and canoeing guide for a wilderness tourist business. The mysterious Josh is ashamed of himself and after several weeks feels it is past time to apologize. Bringing along his two small daughters, Chloe and Hannah, who have only recently come to live with him, Jose flies his small plane near the community where Amy works and all three show up at her workplace.

It's not the apology of the year since Josh's older daughter Chloe behaves like a spoiled brat. Amy is a quick study and not anxious to repeat humiliation no matter how handsome the player. But Josh gradually maneuvers her into agreeing to go to dinner with him, and the get-acquainted period starts.

Amy is recovering from a previous relationship. The author provides lots of reasons why Amy is gun-shy, but I was never really sure which ones, if any, were applicable to the relationship at hand. Josh is likewise seeking to avoid a commitment, while nonetheless pursuing Amy. A lot of reasons are given for his reluctance to commit, but again I did not find any of them convincing.

North Star Rising does bring the rarely discussed sport of canoeing to the forefront. The author does a good job putting the reader on the water, and allowing us to feel the freedom, the excitement and the danger of the sport. And interesting bits of canoeing lore are worked into the story

The weakness of the book is in the maintenance of credible conflict in Josh and Amy's romance. The author tells the reader what to feel rather than showing the reasons for those feelings through the actions of the characters. For me, it becomes a major flaw when I'm given too many explanations for too many diverse emotions. I was never really sure exactly what the problem was or more importantly, why there really was one.

So even though North Star Rising offers a fresh, interesting theme, its charm is offset by a narrative that leads the reader around by the hand instead of leaving reader free to enjoy a journey of discovery.

--Thea Davis

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