The Brides of Durango: Elise

Renegade's Lady

Eden by Bobbi Smith
(Leisure, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-4942-2
Romance and spies are often a powerful combination. Throw in a setting like New Orleans during the Civil War and you have the potential for a tense situation and sizzling romance. Eden shows us some of that potential, but fails with a weak ending.

Eden LeGrand is a member of a group of rebels who smuggle medicine and disrupt arms shipments in order to help the southern cause. In her spare time, she runs a haven for orphaned children. During one of her missions, a Northern soldier is shot and Eden provides medical care, only to see him carted off to a prison camp.

That soldier was the brother of Logan Matthews, a covert operations agent for the North determined to find and rescue his brother and shut down the rebel resistance. Intelligent reports indicate that the owner of the orphanage, Edenís boss, is the mastermind. ďReverend LoganĒ enters New Orleans and delivers a gift to the orphanage in hopes of infiltrating the rebels. He arrives in time to save her from two disorderly Northern soldiers thus winning her gratitude. This gratitude grows into love in a few short weeks.

Logan is a good man and helping the children and falling for Eden comes naturally. Eden is a strong heroine, who believes in the cause, loves the children and yet, even in a war torn world, believes in the man Logan presents himself to be. Logan struggles with his knowledge of his mission and his growing love for Eden. Eden wrestles with her conscience over lusting for a preacher, but recognizes that Logan is a man first. After a night of unplanned passion, Logan and Eden marry to protect her reputation.

Logan realizes that by keeping his identity secret, he is dooming their long-term chances, but he wants to spend every moment he can with Eden. Eden knows that she has married a man who doesnít stay in one place long, and she is concerned about how they will live, but is determined to make Logan love her so much that he will stay by her side. They enjoy wedded bliss for a month before the war intrudes.

Spying and subterfuge is interwoven in the story with secret meetings, contacts that move in and out of rooms and the feelings of mistrust evident in many interactions. It is a clear picture of life in a city torn apart by war.

Braden, Loganís brother, recovers from his injuries and the surprising twist given to this sub-plot adds some spice to the romance. However, Braden has a tent, water, and freedom to move around which does not ring true to most accounts of life in a southern prison camp.

Other characters, including the children, enhance the storyline. Logan befriends several children, showing his softer side while Eden sacrifices her time on a daily basis to ensure her young charges are well cared for. Camille, Edenís sister, grows from a spoiled southern miss to a self-sufficient, likable young woman.

But it is the main romance that both engages and disappoints. Throughout the book, the reader is alerted to the upcoming confrontation between Eden and Logan once the truth is revealed. I was drawn into the story, wondering how the author was going to solve what seemed to be insurmountable odds against them. The build-up was tense, filling me with the hope that their love was strong enough to overcome this wartime deceit. And that confrontation never comes.

The conflict is resolved in a five-page epilogue that takes place 1 year later. The last 40 pages left me feeling disenchanted with the entire book. Eden took me on a road towards paradise, but left me in a state of discontent.

--Shirley Lyons

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