Count On Me by Kathryn Shay
(Harl. Super. #976, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-70976-5
****
Dr. Kurt Lansing has returned to the scene of his crime. It's nothing he would get arrested for, but he made a bad mistake a year ago and everyone he loves knows it. So does he. He isn't sure there is any way he can ever show how sorry he is to the woman he loved then and still loves - Zoe Caufield.

What he did was return to his wife. That doesn't sound so bad. But since he returned to her within hours of passionately loving Zoe, that was definitely not nice. Everyone in his circle of friends knew he had gone back to his wife for the wrong reasons and that the marriage would never last. He soon realizes they were right but the damage is done. He leaves his marriage forever a little too late.

This sounds like a less than promising start to a hero and heroine's romance, but it works. Kurt is a good man and a good doctor - he has returned to the small town where Zoe and Kurt's family live because he is going to start a clinic for teenagers like another he's successfully run elsewhere. Zoe is still hurt and betrayed and confused . . . how could someone who seemed so right for her and who fit in so well with her friends have done this? . . . but she's also a crusader and guide for teenagers in the school where she works. She knows Kurt is a caring and dedicated person and she can trust him to help guide her group of teenaged students while they volunteer at the clinic. On the other hand she feels as if she can't trust him with her love any more.

The teenagers she works with are fascinating characters either on their own or as a group. I enjoyed seeing each of them deal with their assorted problems - one is talented but unsure if she is talented enough to get into the right college, another is religious and pregnant, a third is . . . Even though it became a little soap opera-ish, I still was entertained. (Then again my kids aren't teens yet.)

Zoe's circle of friends is equally fascinating and her friends' efforts to be protective of Zoe, though more mature than the high schoolers, show both their human qualities and Zoe's capacity to make good friends. Their change of feelings through the book - from thinking Kurt is a worm to urging Zoe to forgive him - makes Kurt's redemption more believable.

However, though the adults work out adult problems in fairly adult ways, the kids' problems ultimately get to be too much. The big climax didn't ring true to me. I could believe someone getting out of control, but not the someone the author picked and not the way it was done. In fact something was missing at the ending - maybe it dragged out a little too long or maybe I lost my interest because I didn't believe it. Until then, I was engrossed.

Enjoy the story as long as you can forgive the last few pages.

--Irene Williams


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