A Love to Cherish by Beverly Clark
(Genesis Press, $`15.95, PG-13) ISBN 1-885478-25-6
***
Two days before his tenth birthday, Cornell Robertson's father left home. Cornell found him packing. "My father seemed agitated. He looked like a shell-shocked soldier, walking around as though he were dazed and hurt beyond bearing."

The elder Robertson had dreams of becoming an architect. He met and fell in love with Lillie during his last year of high school. She got pregnant and both parents encouraged him to marry her. It meant giving up his chance to go to college. The scholarship required that he be single or married without children.

He abandoned the family while Lillie was still in the hospital following the birth of their fifth child.

Before leaving, he told Cornell: "I want you to promise me that you'll get an education and be somebody. I want you to promise me that you won't let anything or anyone get in the way of achieving your success...Never lose sight of your goal. Whatever you do, don't let anyone sidetrack you..." Cornell never forgave his father, but he never forgot his parting words.

In college, Cornell falls in love with Tracey Hamilton. In their senior year, the star running back hopes to be drafted by the Green Bay Packers. Several weeks before graduation, Tracey tells him she is pregnant. Panic-stricken, Cornell suggests she have an abortion. Tracey breaks off their relationship and disappears from campus.

Fast forward six years. As Tracey is managing her family's restaurant, Cornell walks in with a teammate. He has been traded to the Chicago Grizzlies who've set up training camp in town. Cornell has never forgotten, nor stopped loving Tracey. He is "somebody." But, despite his professional success, he needs Tracey and vows to win her back.

What Tracey has are mixed feelings, an unanswered marriage proposal from an old family friend, a set of five-year-old twins and a lot of explaining to do.

To Cornell: "Oh, by the way, I didn't have that abortion. You have a son and a daughter that I kept you from knowing about all these years, whether you deserved to know or not."

To her friend: "I had Cornell Robertson's children. If you marry me you'll be the stepfather to the children of the man you can't stand."

To her children: "Your father is in town. He happens to be Cornell Robertson, the football superstar. I never told you about him because he never wanted you in the first place."

A Love to Cherish is author Beverly Clark's second novel. Like her first, Yesterday Is Gone, it is a story about second chances.

But the plot is very predictable, complete with secrets, jealous lovers, ex-spouses and adorable children. We've read this story before. The main characters are nice people and we never question their love for each other. What makes Clark's story worth reading are the secondary characters. Cornell's mother, Tracey's parents and the couple's best friends instinctively know when to offer advice and support and when to listen.

However, it is the price of the small, hardbound book $15.95 that makes me hesitant. I'd probably recommend the story, but not at this price. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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