Unfinished Business
by Inglath Cooper
(Harl. Super. #1214, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-71214-6
Friends from childhood, a boy and a girl grew up and then grew apart. The girl married the boy’s best friend, and the boy married a girl he met in college. Now years later, they are both divorced and they meet by accident. Fires get kindled and they find happiness. The above scenario has been used as backdrops in many romance tales over the years. I can happily report that Inglath Cooper’s version, Unfinished Business, is a refreshingly good story that shows depth and character and the power of love in starting over.

Addy Taylor grew up in rural Virginia on an apple orchard operated by her mother. Her father left them before she was a teenager and she never got over it. Determined to not be her mother, she went to college, married her high school sweetheart, Mark and headed to Washington D.C and the good life. Until one day, she popped home to get some papers she forgot and found her husband in bed with a woman obviously pregnant with his child. Eleven years of marriage down the tubes, and a mountain of guilt and remorse - and some self-pity - left behind.

Culley Rutherford was Addy’s best friend all through school. He and Mark were best friends and he watched the two of them fall in love. Shortly after they married, he lost touch, went to college, married a girl he met, and became a doctor. They had a lovely little girl they named Madeline. All was not well, however. Having grown up with an alcoholic father, Culley knew the signs but didn’t act on them until he almost lost both his wife and his daughter. Now he is back home, raising his daughter and enjoying the life of a country doctor.

The two reunite in New York City. Culley is there with some friends and Addy is there on business. An accidental meeting, and things lead to bed. Addy, embarrassed and not sure of Culley’s morning-after reaction, takes off while he is sleeping. They are reunited just a few weeks later when Addy returns home. Her mother has some health problems and she makes the decision to take a leave of absence and care for her mom.

But fate makes them work for their happy ever after. There are kooks trying to force them to sell the orchard to make way for a proposed highway. Addy has built a wall around her heart and is afraid to let Culley and his daughter in. Culley’s ex-wife shows up unexpectedly and he must put his ghosts (and hers) to rest.

Cooper has written a thought-provoking character study. There is not a lot of action, but there is laughter, warmth, barriers, roadblocks, and more reflection, plus an abundance of adult behavior and soul searching that seems real and full of hope. This tale is not for someone looking for a light, playful bed-hopping tale. This story is for someone looking for an intelligent hero and heroine who work through the issues in their lives in order to find the happiness they want and ultimately accept that they deserve it.

An additional reward is to be found in other characters too. There is Madeline, a little girl struggling with a lot of grown-up problems, and Claire, Addy’s mom, who has some ghosts of her own to put to rest. Even Liz, Culley’s ex-wife, is given some depth so that while not liking her behavior, her actions and demons are there for all to see and accept.

Heartwarming contemplation is one way I might describe my feelings when I finished this book. In her introduction, Cooper offers that she hopes people can say this is a good story. Unfinished Business lives up to the author’s goal without doubt.

--Shirley Lyons

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