The Second Sister by Carrie Weaver
(Harl. Super. #1222, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-71222-7
Weaver has written a sequel to The Road to Echo Point, and given Sheriff Vince Moreno his own story. The title refers to estranged sister Colleen Davies. Colleen and Vince have lots of emotional baggage, and the story really is about families resolving issues from the past. This makes the tale full of woe, self-pity and a lot of angst. If you enjoy this type of tale, then The Second Sister is well-written. But if you arenít into two people delving into emotions that lead to depression before they fight their way out, then pass it by.

Colleen is the abandoned sister. Her father is an alcoholic who is dying. He was never a great father, but he was all she had. He used guilt to keep her with him, even demanding she give up her hopes of college and a career in marine biology. Her mother left when she was just eight, shortly after her older brother was killed in a car wreck and her older sister, Violet, ran from home. Colleen doesnít even realize she has so many pent-up emotions. But her father is dying and it is his last request that she bring Violet to see him one last time. Colleenís character is self-sufficient one minute and full of self-pity the next. She avoids confrontation, yet tells everyone else that they must face their past.

So Colleen travels from Los Angeles to Echo Point, Arizona, to bring her sister back. She hasnít seen Violet since she left. Violet is now married with a young daughter and a baby on the way. Despite issues with the pregnancy, Colleen convinces Violet to return with her. A friend of the family, Vince Moreno, agrees to drive the ladies back to LA. Vince is a small town sheriff now. But he grew up in LA and worked in Phoenix as a police detective. He came to Echo Point to forget.

Vince was just a young boy when his mother died of wounds sustained in a carjacking. Vince has convinced himself that he should have protected her, even though he was just 11. He became a cop so no other family had to suffer through that type of tragedy, but a bust gone wrong in Phoenix resulted in an innocent bystander getting killed. Vince doesnít have to deal with that kind of crime in small Echo Point. His character is strong on the one hand, wanting to be a protector of all. On the other hand, he is emotionally crippled, not even able to walk into a hospital because it brings on too much trauma.

Violet still has unresolved issues too. She claims her dad was physically abusive to her, and that is why she had to leave. She is here to give him a chance to explain, but she is emotionally not ready for the confrontation either.

The first two thirds of the book lay the groundwork and builds to the explosions that each of these characters have to have in order to deal with their issues. During this time, Vince and Colleen fall in love. They fight the attraction at first, but eventually try to figure out how they can actually have a relationship amongst all this grief and emotional outpouring. Their relationship and interactions are engaging, yet filled with all the emotions they must resolve.

The last third of the book involves each person coming to grips with their reality, their past and now their future. It is heart wrenching at times, but it is overkill at times too. I mean, how much baggage can people carry around? The hardest part to believe is that Vince and Colleen fall into ever-lasting love through all this turmoil. It would have been more believable if they had parted ways at the end, but then it would not have been a happy ever after. It is the ending that leaves me a little flat.

Turmoil, emotion, angst, and growing stronger as a person are the descriptions I would use for each of the characters. Forging a bond within their torments is natural. Forging permanent relationships through this uproar is a bit of a stretch for me but may not be for others. Each reader will have to determine if The Second Sister is simply an acceptable tale or something much better.

--Shirley Lyons

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