Wanted Across Time

 
Lovers & Other Lunatics
by Eugenia Riley
(LoveSpell, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52371-X
***
Lovers and Other Lunatics has at its center a mistake. Doctoral student Theresa Phelps is kidnapped off a department store elevator by an attractive stranger who accuses her of having an affair with his father. Theresa manages to escape and hitches a ride with a kid named Billy Bob driving an exterminator truck. In the sort of coincidence that only happens in books, he's on his way to her house anyway. Upon arriving at the remote house on a mud flat off Galveston Island, they find the windows shattered and the house ransacked.

The kidnapper, who introduces himself as Charles, soon follows them. No sooner does he arrive than several Hispanic men in a low-rider drive by and shoot through the windows. Also, Theresa's obnoxious Aunt Hatch, headmistress of the Fullenfelder School for Delinquent Girls, arrives for a visit. Aunt Hatch departs with Billy Bob, leaving Charles in the house with Theresa. And Charles refuses to leave.

Theresa's older brother, Frankie, recently passed away and left her all his worldly possessions. They don't amount to much -- a few books and manuscripts, one of which may hold the key to a treasure hidden by pirate Jean Lafitte. It's this manuscript that everyone seems to want. Including the attractive, and veddy British, Charles Everett, who was closer to Frankie than Theresa knows. And why did Frankie refer to Theresa as his "fail-safe device"?

Throw in a gangster wanting an easy score, several other bad guys, and the recurring Aunt Hatch, and what the reader has is a screwball contemporary romance with a suspense subplot. Actually, it's really a suspense with a romance subplot. There is a lot going on in this story, perhaps too much. Every time the reader turns around, so to speak, another character is being introduced. Kidnappings abound, and so do rescues by the dashing hero, but the pace is so frenetic that character development is held to an absolute minimum. Theresa comes across as a bit of a ditz -- after being grabbed by Charles, she worries about hanging up the new towels to impress Aunt Hatch -- and the rest of the characters are pretty much standard fare.

Lovers and Other Lunatics is a difficult book to review because it didn't leave much of a lasting impression. Call it summer brain candy. It's an enjoyable read, certainly fast-paced, but ultimately unmemorable. Readers won't get to know the characters well enough for them to linger. But as escapist reading, it does the job just fine.

--Cathy Sova


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