Gold Rush Bride

The Mackintosh Bride

The Virgin Spring

On Thin Ice by Debra Lee Brown
(Silh. Int. Mom., #1188, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-27258-8
Lauren Fotheringay has it all - a top executive job at Tiger Petroleum as a senior geologist, a handsome, wealthy fiancé who has given her a huge diamond and can’t wait to get married, and a mother who is planning the entire wedding so Lauren has time to work. There is just one little glitch: the geologists at the Tiger site on Caribou Island have come down with the flu, and Lauren has to take over for them. It’s the same site where her father was killed when she was only eleven. It’s also one of Tiger’s most remote sites, a hundred miles further into the Artic wilderness than Deadhorse, their outermost base camp. Lauren figures she can get her samples, analyze them, report the results, and get back to Anchorage in just a week or two.

But things begin to go wrong from the moment she steps foot on the site. Jack Salvio, the overseer from Tiger, is a thoroughly nasty man, and Lauren knows she’s going to have her hands full dealing with him. And before she’s been there for an hour, Paddy O’Connor, who she’s known since she was a child, is dead, and it doesn’t seem to have been an accident.

Seth Adams, half Inuit ex-FBI agent, is on Caribou Island working undercover to try and find out the identity of Tiger’s corporate thief. He grew up Kachelik, Alaska, and for the past two years has been its police chief, but if he can catch the thief he’ll have a chance of getting his old job back, something he wants more than anything else. When he sees Lauren, he suspects her immediately. She’s high in the company and expecting a major promotion soon, her fiancé is the financial VP and in good position to leak corporate secrets, and she gets to the island only six days after he does. But once he discovers how deeply Paddy’s death affects her, he changes his mind, beginning to suspect either Crocker Holt, the fiancé, or Lauren’s boss, Bill Walters.

Meanwhile, Lauren has found some ore samples that aren’t at all what she expected. And when she mentions them to Salvio, he is furious, and the samples suddenly disappear. He also claims the satellite link is down, and there is no way for Lauren to contact her boss or her fiancé, or to report Paddy’s death. She knows something is wrong, she just doesn’t know what or why, including why Paddy was killed. She also knows that she is attracted to Seth Adams like she’s never been attracted to anyone.

While the setting is wild and unconventional - the Alaskan wilderness during winter when there’s never any sun - the characters and plot are very conventional, leading to a totally expected resolution. Both Lauren and Seth have their personal problems to deal with before they can be a couple. She has to get rid of a fiancé; he has to face his past so it will no longer have power over him. But neither of them seems to have too difficult a time of it, and their problems appear to be a “deus ex machina” hoop they have to jump through before they can have their HEA. In addition, they didn’t seem to have all that much in common that could draw them together, other than propinquity and a soupcon of danger. In fact, Seth is at first suspicious of Lauren because she reminds him of his ex-wife, a cold and mercenary social climber. Of course, the requisite “love at first sight” scene and the “overwhelming chemical attraction” that draws them together are both present, but they seem more like a plot device than anything real.

The plot begins with what seems to be a murder in just the first few pages, but soon bogs down in details of geology and oil exploration, which are less interesting than the interactions between the characters, trying to either solve the murder or hide the real reason for it. Salvio and his two henchmen are thoroughly unpleasant but not complex characters, mere caricatures of villains. . Neither the plot nor the characters are powerful enough to involve the reader, and so the book is easy to put down.

Finishing this story was a chore rather than a pleasure. Even the title, On Thin Ice, doesn’t seem to fit, since the ice on the island and elsewhere is thick to say the least. Readers may want to try it for the setting or the occasional steamy sex scenes, but unless you prefer a predictable story that may put you to sleep late at night, give this one a miss.

--Joni Richards Bodart

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