Blue Moon by Laura Marie Altom
(LoveSpell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52538-0
***
Angels are In, so Blue Moon has an angel in it, or - to be accurate - an angel-in-training. In fact, Geneva Kowalski-McBride is the liveliest character in Blue Moon. The other characters, and much of the plot, are straight from the Romance Clichés Headquarters.

Geneva has only been dead three months, and she hasn’t won her wings yet. She was a pretty bad girl before she overdosed on X. She abandoned her husband, Jonah, and her newborn daughter, Katie, and ran away to Little Rock, Arkansas, and the life of a groupie. After she died, Mr. Big - you know who He is, I’m sure - decided that if Geneva wants to stay in Heaven, she has to match Jonah and Katie up with a woman who has wrecked her car near Blue Moon, Arkansas, and is presently unconscious in a ditch.

Jonah and Katie haven’t been doing well since Geneva died. Jonah’s diner, the Blue Moon, was on its last legs before Geneva left, and business hasn’t improved. Even worse, four month old Katie isn’t eating well, and the doctor is threatening to hospitalize her to determine why she is failing to thrive. Jonah’s house is a mess, and he is miserable.

With a little help from Geneva, the blonde in the wreck turns up in the ladies’ room of the Blue Moon Diner, barely conscious and smelling of alcohol. Jonah is busy closing the diner, so he plops the woman on the couch in his office to sleep it off while he finishes cleaning. Katie is asleep in the same room, and before he has finished, she wakes up and wails for her bottle. By the time he hurries to the office, the blonde has woken up and is breast-feeding Katie. Jonah realizes quickly that the woman thinks she is married to him and that Katie is their daughter, Lizzie.

Right about here, 23 pages into Blue Moon, I realized why Laura Marie Altom had to have an angel in her book. How else would you match up a four-month-old baby and a lactating amnesiac?

Never mind. To Jonah, the blonde is truly a gift from heaven. It’s late, he’s tired, and Katie is sleeping contentedly for the first time in three months, so he takes the woman…whom he calls Angel…home for the night. Morning comes, and Jonah wakes up to a contented, breast-fed baby and a house that smells of fresh-brewed coffee and bacon frying. Even when Geneva was around, she never got up early and made him breakfast, whereas Angel appears to be a born homemaker. Nevertheless, Jonah finally calls his best friend, Police Chief Sam Lawson, and tells him all about his houseguest.

Sam Lawson takes Angel’s sudden appearance seriously and sets about trying to find out who she is and what happened to the car she was driving. In the meantime, Angel continues to live with Jonah who allows her to continue to believe she is his wife and Katie/Lizzie’s mother. The whole town of Blue Moon, including Sam and the local doctor, cooperates in the charade, on the theory that Angel needs to remember her past without help. Jonah feels guilty about living a lie…and well he might!…but Angel is making him too darn comfortable, and his baby is thriving, so he quashes his guilty feelings. I had a little more trouble with my quashing.

Despite the problems I had with the book’s logical and moral flaws, Altom’s competent written style made for a pleasant reading experience. Jonah’s characterization - guilty, grumpy, and cheerful by turns - felt right, and if Angel was a little too good to be true, Geneva had sparkle enough for both of them. So turn off your critical faculties, put your feet up, and read away. Romance Clichés HQ does know how to put together a product that entertains as long as you don’t scrutinize its plot too closely.

--Nancy J. Silberstein


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