The Bachelor's Bed

Blue Flame

Duets 42

Duets 57

The Harder They Fall

Her Perfect Stranger

Hiding Out at the Circle C

Long-Lost Mom

Seduce Me

White Heat

Who's the Boss

Seeing Red by Jill Shalvis
(Signet, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-21502-8
Summer Abrams and Joe Walker were high school friends in San Diego. He was the fat boy who lived next door and adored her from afar. Joe spent a lot of time in Summerís house; her family was his refuge from a physically abusive father. The day it ended was the day they escaped a beach confrontation with a group of high school boys who were taunting him, by retreating to her familyís warehouse.

Summerís mother and aunt had a retail sales store stocked by merchandise at this warehouse. While there they discovered smoke and Summer realized her father was trapped. Trying to rescue him she became pinned by a fallen beam and Joe rescued her. Her father died.

Consumed by guilt and a reluctance to ever get close to anyone she might lose, Summer fled to Colorado to become a river guide, gradually enlarging her career to involve expeditions in many venues. The same warehouse burns again and the story opens as Summer returns to San Diego in response to her motherís call for help.

And who is the fire marshal investigating this fire? Joe Walker, now slim, handsome and remote. Summer realizes that she is not only estranged from her family but from Joe as well. But that is OK at first, as she doesnít do relationships of long standing.

Summer is handling the insurance issues for her mother and starts trying to reestablish the closeness of a family that includes aunts and cousins. Meanwhile there is another fire at one of the stores and she is nearly killed. The fires are too connected to be accidental and Joe investigates.

The tension increases when Summer begins receiving text message threats on her cell phone. And the sexual tension between Joe and Summer escalates as well. Shalvis does a nice job of balancing the two, with varied pacing that keeps the reader interested.

Shalvis utilizes the environs of the San Diego area, instilling a great sense of setting. Populating it with a variety of contemporary archetypes, it is nevertheless the warmth of her characters that carries the story. One likes all of the players, although she has postured them so that one of them must be the culprit. And because of that, the reader doesnít feel a foreboding of great evil. That may well be the plot weakness as fire is not to be underestimated as a destroyer.

Nonetheless, Seeing Red is a quick, very enjoyable read.

--Thea Davis

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