Beneath a Texas Sky
by Rebecca Winters
(Harl. Super. 1034, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-373-71034-8
Texas Ranger Captain Jace Riley lost his friend and mentor Ranger Gibb Barton in a robbery in Austin, Texas. The murderers fled in an airplane and the current thinking is that they made it to Mexico. Jace feels certain they did not and that the wreckage or the plane is someplace in the mountainous area of Texas. He persuades his superiors to allow him two months to investigate in that area and goes undercover as a temporary parcel delivery driver to scout the area.

Time is running out when one day a very rude man later identified as Tony demands that Jace give him a ride up the mountain to see Dana Turner. Jace agrees since it gives him more of a reason to meet new people and explore. Dana is an astronomer working on her PhD at this remote location, which has one of the most powerful telescopes in the country.

Dana is trying to recover from a seven-month stay in the women’s penitentiary. She had been convicted of murdering her sister, but an investigation spurred by her best friend finally resulted in the court overturning its verdict and releasing her. Walking out the gates did not immediately restore her life to its former place and the story has an interesting way of dealing with the emotional trauma sustained from wrongful imprisonment.

Dana and Jace meet and it is instant chemistry, which the author maintains well throughout the book. Jace discovers a disgruntled Tony walking away complaining that Dana pulled a gun on him. Mostly as a result of this and his interest in Dana, Jace creates reasons to drop by the trailer she is renting near the observatory.

Winters has done a fine job in the creation of her characters. The “good guys” generate a lot of empathy and the “bad guys” sink beneath the proverbial layer of pond scum. The dialogue is good, and the emotional problems of the hero and heroine are deftly handled.

That said, the novel is choppy and inconsistent in its quality. There is very little sense of place or surroundings in the story. In action scenes, the credibility is often impaired by the lack of transitional scenes, creating a disjointed effect.

Combining the strengths and weaknesses reduces this novel to an average rating; however, the amateur astronomer will enjoy the unusual bonus of astrogeological information imparted here.

--Thea Davis

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