If I Can't Have You by Patti Berg
(Avon, 5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-79554-X
***
Adriana Howard has been obsessed with 1930's screen idol Trevor Montgomery since childhood. His dashing screen image was a way for her to forget her unhappiness. Later as an adolescent and as an adult, he was the benchmark that she used to compare other men. Taking advantage of her love of 1930's Hollywood, Adriana buys and sells nostalgic period collectibles. Her obsession won't allow her to sell anything belonging to Trevor; she even lives in his old home.

Trevor, friends with Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power and other celebrity notables, disappeared in 1938, leaving a mystery. A young actress, found brutally murdered, was last seen in his company. Sixty years later the mystery continues. Speculation is that Trevor killed the actress and then disappeared. From his point of view, we know that after waking up beside the dead actress, he tried to commit suicide by drinking himself senseless and then throwing himself into a pool.

On the anniversary of his disappearance, Adriana wishes for Trevor's return and throws a red rose into the pool where Trevor was last seen. Walking away, she's unaware of Trevor's sudden appearance from . . . sixty years in the past. Chronologically he may be ninety-four, but biologically he's still thirty-four and is surprised and confused to learn that sixty years have passed. To Trevor it seems that only one day has elapsed. The last thing he remembers is falling into the pool.

Trevor's story is told in flashbacks. We see his side of the murder, yet don't know until near the end who killed the young actress. In the 1930's, Trevor was a borderline alcoholic and was, in fact, drunk the night of the murder. Adriana is at first suspicious of this man who claims to be THE Trevor Montgomery. She is almost convinced until her lawyer shows her information that makes her doubt Trevor's story.

The character of Adriana was a problem for me. Her doubts as to Trevor's identity last way too long. At first she has real doubts as to his veracity. No kidding! I'd hope that we'd all be skeptical if a stranger claimed to be a long dead anybody. When she's shown irrefutable proof, there are still lingering doubts.

Both Adriana and Trevor have survived traumatic childhoods. Adriana lived with a bitter, alcoholic father. Trevor's parents were cold, uncaring people who ignored him and left him in the care of servants. Nevertheless, Trevor hasn't become such a victim that it robs him of some of life's joys. Trevor's character has some life, some animation. The character of Adriana is lethargic and two-dimensional. She is dull and not very engaging or sympathetic.

We know why Adriana is in love with Trevor, even if it is based on superficial reasons. Yet there is no credibility when he falls in love with her, this tepid and strangely inanimate woman. I have a really hard time appreciating a character who suffers from what I call Daisyitis. I want him . . . I want him not . . . Did he kill her?. . .Did he not?. . .Is he Trevor?. . .Is he not?

The mystery aspect fizzles like a dud firecracker. A totally unexpected turn of events near the end is a refreshing and interesting twist, but it didn't cure the overall apathy that I felt. On an upscale note, the author does a good job of describing Hollywood in its heyday, with all of its glitz and glamour. If she'd only put in a heroine to equal the interesting, charismatic hero.

--Linda Mowery


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