Blue Clouds

Denim and Lace

Garden of Dreams

The Marquess

Wayward Angel

Volcano by Patricia Rice
(Fawcett, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-449-15064-X
Volcano is a romantic adventure that will draw inevitable comparisons to Romancing the Stone. Penelope Albright is traveling to St. Lucia, tropical paradise and home to an active volcano. Her skill as a software specialist is much in demand among hoteliers. Hopefully, the successful completion of this job will ensure her future partnership with her firm, and enable her to pay for the surgery her blind sister needs.

Upon arriving at the airport in St. Lucia, Penelope is shocked when a bag of white powder is found in her luggage. The cops are closing in when up steps Charlie Smith, ex-football-player, hunk and a man who needs a convenient "wife" to help disguise his activities in St. Lucia. Charlie's best friend, Raul, has disappeared with a large chunk of company funds, and Charlie needs to find both before his construction firm is shut down for good. Penny will do as a "wife." Quick as a flash, Charlie has bribed them out of the airport and into a car headed to a remote end of the island.

Charlie and Penelope soon come to rely on each other. Someone doesn't want Raul to be found, someone who wants Charlie to go under. In more ways than one. And as Charlie and Penelope make their way toward the truth, their passion for one another erupts like… a volcano.

Patricia Rice is a gifted storyteller, and her obvious affection for the tropical settings is evident from the start. Charlie is a good-time guy, a love-em-and-leave-em type who notices Penny's knockout shape long before he's wowed by her smarts and personality. Probably because she's about as friendly as a porcupine at first, even after Charlie explains himself and points out that he saved her butt. I liked Charlie just fine.

Penny didn't resonate with me. Why, oh why, do good-looking women in novels have to be ex-models? Isn't it enough to be attractive? Okay, so she's tall. And slim. And pretty. Heck, I know half a dozen women who fit that description and none of them are ex-models; this whole thread served no purpose other than shoving her looks down the reader's throat. It made her initial snippiness almost unbearable. Charlie takes her down a few pegs, and none too soon. Thankfully, it's early enough for Penny to undergo a needed change in attitude, and the story became much more enjoyable after that.

And I have to compliment the Fawcett art department on one of the prettiest covers of the year.

The thread of industrial espionage is a bit hard to follow at times. Readers, pay close attention to the details early on or you'll likely be somewhat lost. The ending does clear things up nicely. And the secondary characters help add closure to the plot.

Want a steamy jungle romance? Look no further than Volcano. Enjoy.

--Cathy Sova

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