Her Sisterís Secret Son
by Lisette Belisle
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1403, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-24403-7
Rachel Hale has always felt like the paler copy of her identical twin, Laurel. Not even Laurelís death can change that, especially since Rachel took on the care of Laurelís son. When Jared Carlisle meets Rachel and at first thinks she is Laurel, heís disgusted that he can be as attracted to someone so shallow, especially after what she did to him years ago. Although he soon realizes this is someone else, heís still wary. Rachel is enmeshed in all the things Laurel did wrong before and with all the people Laurel was attracted to. Unexpectedly, Jared discovers that Laurel did one last awful thing to him: she never told him that he was a father.

Rachel has just moved to the area and is struggling to figure out whatís going on. All she wants is a stable, secure home for her nephew, Dylan. She always thought she knew Dylanís dad - heís the man who was just arrested and now no longer is able to help provide for Dylan. Security and stability seem far away. Then Jared springs his news on her. She had thought he was attracted to her the way she was, reluctantly, attracted to him. She feels stunned and betrayed when she realizes why he is hanging around. To top things off, he proposes to her - but only so they both can provide the home Dylan needs. Custody fight or loveless marriage? Rachel has to choose.

This book has a complicated plot and itís in the middle of a series, so a reader doesnít always know precisely what has happened before. However, the charactersí integrity and complexity help keep the readerís interest through the puzzling parts. Jared is the more compelling character of the two, coping with new fatherhood, the risk of loving his wife and his cantankerous father who failed at marriage years ago. He isnít sure he can make any marriage a success given his familyís past history. Rachel is somewhat more passive, but she isnít a pushover. She is puzzled at how to cope with her new father-in-law, for example, until she finally explodes. Sheís also protective of Dylan and wonders how to cope with Jaredís different parenting style before she realizes Jared is working to be as good a parent as she is.

Things are a tad soap opera-ish, but the characters never resort to foot-stamping childishness. The heroine and hero work to make the best of a tough situation and learn to care for each other despite their own insecurities. Rachel learns that she is her own person, not Laurelís shadow, and worthy of her own love. Jared overcomes the childhood betrayal he felt from his motherís desertion and learns the truth.

Her Sisterís Secret Son shows the characters growing and overcoming past mistakes and, by growing, also learning the truth about past secrets. The hero and heroine work to become worthy of each other and to deserve their HEA. Isnít that what romance is about?

--Irene Williams

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