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In the Dark by Pamela Burford
(Harl. Tempt. #723, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25823-2
****
Pamela Burford just keeps getting better and better. She's introduced us to heroes who are alpha with a capital A and in this story, we've got a hero who doesn't even recognize his worth until that special woman comes into his life. In the Dark is one of the funniest, most delightful category novels I've read in a month of Sundays. At three dollars and seventy-five cents, it's the best entertainment value around.

Part of The Wrong Bed miniseries, Pam Burford has taken the premise of what happens if two people do end up in the wrong bed. "Use your imagination. Put together a him and a her and a bed. Now throw a monkey wrench into the works."

Thirty-eight-year-old Cat Seabright has given up on finding Mr. Perfect. Cat knows that her biological clock is ticktickticking. She's devised a way to get pregnant that suits her needs perfectly. Her best friend has a male cousin, a laid-back sort of guy, who's agreed to get her pregnant and will then disappear from her life.

Well, best laid plans and all of that! On the night of the Big Seduction, New York experiences a blackout. Two events work to thwart Cat's plan. The cousin, unbeknownst to Cat, is stranded in Boston because of the blackout. She's also unaware that her boss has invited a client to use the very apartment where Cat is planning the Big Seduction. She's only met the cousin once and considering that it's pitch black, Cat doesn't even know that the wrong man has arrived. Whoops!

Brody Mikhailov has been told to expect a surprise when he arrives at the apartment he's to use, but he's not expecting a woman, especially a woman who's determined to seduce him. Reluctant at first, thinking that he'll refuse the 'lady of the night,' Brody succumbs to her charms and has a hell of an evening.

The light of day brings lots of surprises. When Cat goes to meet her new client, guess who it is? You betcha it's Brody. She's horrified and he's bemused. From this point on, Pam Burford takes us on a whirlwind of fun, sensuality, poignancy and page-turning appeal.

Brody is not your typical hero. At forty, he's never been married, smokes, drinks vodka straight from the freezer and writes those trashy unauthorized biographies that Cat considers sleaze. He blackmails Cat into working for him, even knowing that she'd rather be on the dark side of the moon than with him. He's not very likable or heroic . . . at first. As Cat gets to know him and sees that his cynicism hides a tender heart, we're treated to a terrific metamorphosis. What makes the transformation all the more compelling is that we as readers are treated to the Why.

I was a hair's width from rating this book a five, but an incident, vital to the plot, but one which kept nagging at me made me decide on a four-heart rating. Cat wants to get pregnant. The only way to do that is to have unprotected sex. But if Brody thinks that she's a prostitute, how come he doesn't use protection? It's a Catch 22 situation. The book would have stalled if he'd used a condom, but it seems too dangerous, almost foolhardy to have unprotected sex. A true dilemma.

In spite of a rocky, condomless beginning, I thought that In the Dark was terrific. I feel very lucky that I've been introduced to Pamela Burford's books. Talented writing such as hers makes up for so many lackluster stories on the market. She's a welcome addition to category writing. Want to see true character growth . . . the healing power of love . . . what happens when you look below the surface? Want to read savvy dialog . . . good imagery . . . belly-laugh humor? Then look no further than In the Dark.

--Linda Mowery


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