Catch Me If You Can

Enemy Husband

Sins of the Father

Sweet Revenge

Sweet Suspicion

Royal Betrayal by Nina Bruhns
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1424, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-27494-9
The fourth book in Silhouette Intimate Moments continuing series, “Capturing The Crown,” starts out extremely promising, but ultimately sinks thanks to mind numbing conflict and a plot thread left dangling in the breeze.

Dr. Zara Smith is the surgeon who removed a brain tumor from King Weston. He’s been in a coma since, and Zara cannot find any medical reason why. She’s seeing to the King when shrapnel rips through the hospital room. Throwing her body over the King’s, Zara saves his life from the bomb that has just exploded. A bump on the temple from flying debris also means that when Zara wakes up a hero, she also wakes up with amnesia.

Dr. Walker Shaw is a doctor in name only. An accusation from a powerful, former female patient has left his reputation in tatters and he is now working as a consultant for the private security firm, the Lazlo Group. An expert on memory, dementia and Alzheimer’s, Walker travels to the tiny county of Silvershire at the behest of the acting Regent. They desperately need Zara to regain her memory in order to find out what she knows about the assassination attempt.

Life quickly becomes complicated when Walker realizes Zara is the woman “Sarah” he had a passionate affair with several years ago at a medical conference. Also, it appears that Zara is in grave danger; so not only does Walker have to help her regain her memory, he has to somehow protect her from a madman.

Royalty and amnesia plots happen to be two of my least favorite, but Bruhns sets up an exciting premise that keeps the reader engaged. Blessedly she doesn’t drag the amnesia aspect out for too long, and Zara begins recalling bits of her memory almost immediately. Likewise, the royal intrigue plot is compelling and the author keeps the suspense humming along.

However the story begins to stumble around the halfway point. Zara is incredibly ambitious. She has dreams of inheriting the family title – which is of course not possible given that the line of succession falls to the oldest male. So she’s spent her years stamping her foot and whining about how unfair it all is. She even pursued the male family profession of medicine, one suspects not because she really wanted to be a doctor, but in the hopes that Daddy would forget she’s a girl.

Zara’s ambition and royal title add more conflict to her burgeoning relationship with Walker. His fall from grace involved a US Senator’s daughter, so the sordid details of the scandal are well known. Zara questions his innocence, and because she doesn’t have blind faith in him, he spends portions of the novel sulking. Once she realizes that duh, the man she’s been having sex with couldn’t possibly be guilty – she questions why he never fought the charges. Walker has his reasons, but he doesn’t tell Zara about them until the last chapter – making this lack of communication particularly trying for the reader.

What ultimately sinks a perfectly enjoyable four-heart book to average territory though is that Walker’s fall from grace is never resolved or addressed in any final manner. His reputation is redeemed in the eyes of the Silvershire people, but one can only assume that he’s still damaged goods in America. Since the author makes a very big deal over this bit of conflict, and even allows Walker to toss it out constantly on why he is “unworthy” of Lady Zara, for the accuser to not be addressed in any way at the end is jarring.

Despite being part of a continuing series, Royal Betrayal stands alone very well. Bruhns writes nice sexual tension and the action keeps the plot humming along. However the characters’ bickering only results in traveling in circles, and the fact that not all of the conflict was addressed at the end of the story is unfortunate.

--Wendy Crutcher

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