Sweet Surrender by Angela Winters
(Arabesque, $4.99, PG) ISBN: 0-7860-0497-5
***
Angela Winters got off to a great start last year with her first novel, Only Hers, and with "Never Say Never," a strong contribution in Arabesque's Mother's Day Collection. Sweet Surrender, Winters' second novel, may very well be her sophomore slump.

Sweet Surrender chronicles Hayden Campbell's marriage of inconvenience to Dr. Cannon Factor. Hayden is a public relations maven whose father requires long-term care after extensive and expensive heart surgery. The bills are mounting and her mother's employer refuses to give her time off to care for him. Hayden is referred to Chicago Health Commissioner Cannon Factor for help. He agrees to help her for a price.

Cannon Factor is a victim of circumstances (and a very bad name). The press has caught him in several compromising situations, which are more innocent than they appear. There's a logical explanation for each of them. But to protect others and his ego, he refuses to offer explanations.

If Hayden will help him resolve his PR nightmare, Cannon will help her father. He later ups the ante. Cannon offers to get the top doctor in the field to treat her father, at no cost, if she will marry him and help him clean up his image in time for him to run for the U.S. Senate.

Heavens to Hippocrates! What's a girl to do?

Although Hayden thinks Cannon is a sleaze, she attempts to save her critically ill father by agreeing to a terminally ill marriage that has only a year to live. As her best friend says, "It sounds like a movie. Out of love and desperation to save her family, our heroine sacrifices herself to a man of ill repute."

Hayden says "it's not a big deal. Only a small inconvenience for the greater good." She truly believes she has sold her soul to the devil. However, she soothes her conscience by signing a prenuptial agreement, refusing to accept any money and offering to share the household expenses.

So, a notorious womanizing politician marries a woman, a PR exec he's only recently met. The cynical media (and readers) are expected to accept the couple's whirlwind courtship, quickie marriage with no honeymoon. A week after the wedding, Cannon announces his candidacy for the Senate and no one questions it.

It's not long before jealous siblings, political rivals, jilted ex-lovers are yellow journalists crawling out of the wood work. What began as political machinations and character assassinations escalate into crank calls and death threats.. Hayden and Cannon close ranks to find the source of their problems and find each other.

Sweet Surrender has several good moments. Hayden's interaction with an ex-boyfriend, all her scenes with her best friend and colleague and the search for the stalker are crisp. However, continuity problems and unbelievable main characters bogged the action down.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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