The Mercenary & the Marriage Vow by Doreen Roberts
(Silh. Int. Mom. 861, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07861-7
**
Three of the six Silhouette Intimate Moments for the month of June have an amnesia plot line. To be fair, I guess one shouldn't be too critical of an author's lack of originality since there is no way of knowing whose manuscript arrived at the publisher first. But is anyone else getting tired of this plot line? I mean, how many people do you know with amnesia?

Mercenary for hire, Nathan Thorne accepts a job from Saudi Arabian oil sheik, Sabhad. His assignment is to return the sheik's wife, Valeri Richmond, to the sheik and their daughters. According to Sabhad, Valeri married him for his money, became bored, and left him for many other men. The thought of a mother abandoning her twin two-year-olds scrapes salt into old childhood wounds of Nathan Thorne.

Valeri is not difficult to find, and Nathan is soon in hot pursuit in crowded Sacramento. Instead of ducking into the nearest bar, Valeri, to his surprise, turns east and heads for Nevada. On a dark road, she suddenly turns off the highway and begins a cross-country dash. As Nathan closes in, she loses control of her car and he arrives on the scene just in time to pull her from a fiery crash.

Valeri's next conscious thoughts take place in a hospital bed when she realizes she doesn't remember the last six years of her life. Nathan, taking advantage of the amnesia, tells her that he is her next door neighbor and will give her a ride back to her husband and children. Despite her amnesia, Valeri is positive that she has not remarried since divorcing her first husband, and she is certain that she is not a mother.

Upon leaving the hospital, Valeri and Nathan find themselves in one chase scene after another. Valeri is threatened on all fronts not only is she worried about attempts on her life, but also the growing attraction she feels for Nathan. When bits and pieces of her memory begin to come back, Nathan realizes she doesn't trust him enough to share. What a surprise! First, he causes her to wreck her car, then he kidnaps her to return her to Sabhad and places her in terrible danger. And he wonders why she won't trust him!

The plot begins to unravel for me here, even though the author supplies enough clues so the story line is much more complicated than just amnesia. While Valeri and Nathan are running around escaping from hitmen, they are also running around looking for a missing scientist. I grew weary of chase scenes, and since most of the action had already occurred, we were only told about it. The ultimate resolution of all of this was handled in a very few pages.

As for the love story, although Valeri is attracted to Nathan throughout the book, this attraction is muted by her belief that she is frigid and her fear that Nathan will find out. Consequently, the book is full of mixed signals. The resolution of this issue was somewhat abrupt.

In only 240 pages Doreen Roberts attempts to tell a complex international suspense story with kidnapping, murder, a framed and hunted defendant, car chase scenes, etc., while dealing with such issues as failed parental relations, emotional problems stemming from abandonment, mistrust, and frigidity. Limiting the number of issues addressed would have permitted the author to deal with them in a more credible and less superficial way.

--Thea Davis


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