All Shook Up

Baby, Don't Go

Baby, I'm Yours

Be My Baby

Exposure

 
Present Danger by Susan Andersen
(Zebra, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-6677-5
****
For years Susan Andersen’s early romantic suspense novels - written for Zebra in the early 1990s - have been among the hottest commodities on the online used bookstores and auctions. Because of their small print runs, these books were very hard to find. One of the boons of Andersen’s growing popularity and success is Zebra’s decision to reissue the author’s earlier books. The results have been paradoxical. While I have enjoyed the more recent books that have moved Andersen onto the bestseller lists, I actually find I like her earlier books better.

Present Danger is a “woman in peril” story. Aunie Franklin, the incredibly lovely daughter of an impoverished branch of prominent Atlanta family, had done what everyone expected of her. She had married very well. Unfortunately, the older man she chose did not want a wife; he wanted an ornament to add to his collection. After several years of an unsatisfactory marriage, Aunie asked for a divorce. Wesley Cunningham had seemed to accept her decision, but it soon became clear that he had developed an unhealthy obsession with his young wife. Then, one evening, he returned to the house they had once shared, and beat Aunie unmercifully.

While Wesley is arrested, he is soon out on bail and Aunie decides that she wants to put as much distance between her ex-husband and herself as possible. So she moves to Seattle and into an apartment house owned by James Ryder, a noted cartoonist. James’s manager and friend Lola is the one who rents the still bruised Annie the apartment. The last thing James wants is another person in his life who needs to be taken care of.

James had grown up in the projects, with Otis, Lola’s husband. He had used his artistic talent to pull himself out of poverty, but his three brothers had been less successful in escaping their past. James is continually having to rescue them. He doesn’t need someone else who needs rescuing, which Aunie sure does.

Aunie and James are oil and water. What do a southern socialite and a rough and tumble guy like him have in common. What’s more, she’s not his type. He likes them tall, blond, busty and experienced, not petite, brunette, and remarkably innocent. So of course, they fall in love.

It is great fun to watch it happen. It is also great fun to watch Aunie discover that she has more than beauty, that she has a brain. Likewise, to see her make friends with Lola, a stately Caribbean beauty and her fireman husband. A whole new world is opening up for Aunie, but, when Wesley is acquitted, suddenly her world threatens to collapse. James takes steps to protect her, but she knows full well the depth Wesley’s obsession.

There is a richness to Present Danger that is becoming increasingly rare in the slighter plots that we find in so many current romances. There is a poignant subplot involving Lola’s and Otis’s failure to conceive a child. There is another involving one of James’ brothers who is a cocaine addict. Yes, the love story between Aunie and James is at the center of the book, but there are also other relationships that are described and developed: Aunie’s friendships with Lola and the woman she meets while attending the local community college; her relationships with James’ brothers and Otis’s family. Moreover, Andersen has plenty of time to provide details about her hero’s and heroine’s background, which also enriches the story.

Andersen writes better now than she did in 1993. She has clearly honed her craft. Her more recent books are without a doubt entertaining and well done. Do check Susan Scribner’s review of her upcoming release. She is clearly one of the best current authors of contemporary romances. Yet the fact remains that this reader at least prefers her earlier books. Often, reissues of a now successful author’s earlier books means that inferior books are being foisted on the reading public. In the case of Present Danger we are seeing Susan Andersen at her best.

--Jean Mason


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