Careless Whispers

Gentle Yearning

Harvest Moon

Heaven Sent

Holiday Cheer

Island Magic

Love Letters

Rosie's Curl & Weave

Summer Magic

Just Before Dawn by Rochelle Alers
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-103-0
Matthew Sterling was introduced as a walk-on character in Rochelle Alers’ Reckless Surrender. His story was told in Hidden Agenda, the inaugural romance in the author’s immensely popular Hideaway series.

My, how time flies. Matthew and his wife, Eve, are now sexy senior citizens who are approaching their seventies and enjoying a peaceful life together on their New Mexico ranch. Their son Christopher is a state senator. Their daughter Sara is a federal prosecutor in New York.

Just Before Dawn is Sara's story.

Sara has taken a well-deserved break from her work for a bit of R & R at her parents’ home near Las Cruces. Although she has kept up with her close-knit family, it has been many months since she has been ‘home.’ When Sara arrives in New Mexico, nothing is as it should be. Christopher has been hurt in a skiing accident in Europe and Matt and Eve have gone to see about him. Salem Lassiter, the local veterinarian and the Sterling’s nearest neighbor has been dispatched to meet Sara at the airport.

The two have never met. Before proper introductions are made, Sara mistakenly thinks the surly, but studly Salem is one of her father=s ranch hands. He assumes she’s a spoiled brat and makes no effort to correct the misunderstanding. Later, as she learns his true identify, she also discovers her sexy new neighbor has a myriad of talents and secrets. Salem has a talent for music and an uncanny ability to communicate with and heal animals. But there are also whispers about his wife’s tragic suicide and the death of his young son.

As Sara is drawn to his physical strength, intuitiveness and air of mystery, Salem is not immune from Sara. As her three-month respite in New Mexico progresses, two very different men, for two very different reasons, want to ensure that Sara does not return to New York.

Just Before Dawn is the second story in Rochelle Alers’ trilogy about the second generation of women in the Hideaway series. Harvest Moon, Regina Cole Spencer’s story was the first. The author has moved the action from the Southeastern region of the country to the Southwest. The locale provides a wonderful setting for her characters of mixed Native American, African-American and Mexican American heritage. The cultural tapestry is rich and tightly woven.

Sara Sterling is her parents’ daughter. It is interesting to note the elements of Eve and Matt’s personalities that Sara embodies. Because we have had few Sara Sterling sightings throughout the series, readers will have no preconceived notions of who she is. Alers has created a complex woman who is well-defined. And, while our heroine finds herself in a bit of danger, loyal series readers know that Sara Sterling is no damsel in distress. However, Salem is up to the task of helping to protect the woman he loves.

In addition to brief appearances by Matt and Eve Sterling and Vanessa and Joshua Kirkland, there is an interesting cast of secondary characters that include Salem’s parents. Alers has wisely kept scenes involving Matt Sterling to a minimum. But rest assured the former government operative has not lost his edge in retirement. He can still bounce a bad guy or two.

Just Before Dawn leaves a few unanswered questions I suspect will be resolved in the next installment of the Hideaway series. It is the story of Joshua and Vanessa Kirkland’s daughter, Emily and Sara’s brother, Christopher Delgado. I can hardly wait.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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