The Tough Guy
& the Toddler

While She Was Sleeping

Whispers & Lies

One Cool Lawman
by Diane Pershing
(SRS #1466, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27536-6
Vanessa Garner was a runaway in her early teens to escape abuse and soon became a prostitute to support herself, and later to support her drug habit. Three children by three different fathers, she is hardly a candidate for Woman of the Year. But, as the story opens she is accepting that award from an organization known as A Single Voice.

Vanessa turned her life around and is working full time to support her family and attending school part time at night. At the awards ceremony, Ray, the father of her youngest child, Katy, shows up, suddenly wanting to claim Katy as his own. He wants Katy to come and live with him and his new wealthy wife who could not bear children.

Vanessa is stunned, frightened and has the confrontation postponed by the intervention of Detective Jackson Rutherford. Jackson had traded this off duty assignment with his partner and overhears the menacing conversation, and fairly easily intimidates Ray.

Jackson is what is known in the South as a well-connected good old boy. Translation, upper middle class, parents very conservative and traditional, and rule bound. Rule one is that first sons marry well, and never beneath them socially. Jackson had escaped this environment by heading to Los Angeles.

Vanessa is racially mixed, part Eurasian, part Latino, and possibly part African- American, and all together very beautiful. Her children are ethnically each different from the other as well. Jackson is drawn to her but for obvious reasons she has never been comfortable with cops, and now has no time for herself and certainly no time to date.

Things change as Ray hires one of LA's sleaziest attorneys and Vanessa is accompanied to the conference by her attorney friend Shannon who gets "muscle" to accompany them. Through connections, it is Jackson who shows up to go with them. Ray essentially offers to buy Katy and the conference ends on a fairly threatening note.

Characters are well drawn and the kids move the story along. Vanessa is torn between providing for them and freeing up some time to be with Jackson, who has steam rolled himself into her life. Then Katy disappears, having been picked u p at school by a strange lady who said she was there on Vanessa's behalf.

The story coves a relatively short period of time, Vanessa and Jackson's time together is remarkably short to think of fashioning a relationship of any depth. Nonetheless, Pershing does it. Whether or not it is credible may depend upon the reader. Readers who find the romance credible will enjoy One Cool Lawman.

--Thea Davis

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