Back Roads

Magnolia Sky

Promises to Keep

On Blue Falls Pond
by Susan Crandall
(Warner Forever, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-446-61639-7
Susan Crandallís excellent story telling and strong characters shine through. Iíve learned I can count on this author for a satisfying romance and a good read.

Glory Harrison is returning to her small Tennessee hometown. She fled Cold Spring Hollow nearly two years earlier after the tragic fire that killed her husband and unborn child.

Unfortunately, Gloryís Granny Tula is having serious eye problems. Tula hates to need help, but Glory canít leave her grandmother to struggle alone. If Tula truly canít cope on her own any more, though, Glory knows she will have to give up her independence to stay and take care of her.

Complicating matters is the fact that Glory cannot remember the fire or events leading up to it. Her therapists believe the memories are gone forever, but just trying to remember whatever happened that night causes an instinctive sense of terror. Glory has a sinking feeling that returning to Cold Spring Hollow will bring it all back.

This fear is supported when she sees is fire chief Eric Wilson Ė and remembers that he was the man who rescued her from the fire.

Eric is a man with problems of his own. Divorced, but an involved parent of his son, Eric is having trouble convincing his ex-wife, Jill, that their child needs help. Almost three, Scott is withdrawn, has stopped talking and developed obsessive behaviors, and does not like to be touched.

When Glory arrives, Eric is also reminded that he had concerns about the fire two years ago. Now sheís back, it seems prudent to quietly find answers to his unanswered questions before she regains her memories.

One of the great strengths of this book is its deceptive simplicity. On the surface, the situation is quite straightforward, but the author did a great job of subtly making me aware of the currents that swirl beneath the surface. What I found out didnít necessarily came as any great surprise, but the story was developed with a deft touch so that I never felt anything was a foregone conclusion.

And congratulations are due anyone who can use an amnesia plot and make it seem fresh and non-clichťd.

I think all this works so well because the true focus is really on the relationship and the love story. The author uses the situation to keep tossing these two people together when their problems and doubts seem to lead them apart, and the sexual tension builds slowly but steadily along with their emotional connection.

Eric is an attractive hero, strong, mature, determined, and with enough depth to make him interesting. He is, if anything, almost too sensitive to ex-wifeís problems Ė and thatís an observation, not a criticism. Characters like Eric can seem too good to be true if they donít have at least one foible to make them human.

Glory is somewhat less successful as a character. She starts out with a compelling set of problems and a manner thatís ambivalent but not cowardly. Unfortunately, at some point along the way she gets stuck in a defensive posture that comes off as purely childish. She knows whatís best for her Gran; Ericís supposed concern is really just self-interest and Granís objections are just stubbornness and denial.

I wanted to sympathize with her more, but the author didnít give me much help. As a result, I went through a bit too much of the book wanting to give her a swift kick rather than rooting for her.

I also didnít think the multiple points of view worked as well as they might. I understand that, with the sporadic forays inside the heads of Tula, Jill, Jillís mother and Gloryís former mother-in-law, the author is signaling the characters who have motive to be the villain of the piece, but I didnít think the time spent inside their heads told us anything we didnít find out from Glory and Eric. Instead, I found the POV switches disruptive to the flow of the story.

On the whole, however, I enjoyed this swiftly-paced and romantic story very much, and can recommend it as a worthwhile way to spend a few leisure hours.

-- Judi McKee

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