It Happened One Night
by Lisa Dale
(Forever, $6.99, PG)  ISBN 978-0446-40690-1
Lana Biel and Eli Ward are best friends and have been for many years. They had a little fling once when teenagers and decided they just needed to be friends. Or so they told each other. Meanwhile, Eli has his dates and Lana has hers. Eli is an astronomer chasing meteorites and Lana runs a flower shop/plant greenhouse with her sister. The story opens as Lana is taking a pregnancy test and Eli is outside the bathroom door offering support. 

It turns out that Lana is pregnant by a guy named Ron who has been a constant, yet wanders in for a fling only to wander out again. The relationship is comfortable for Lana because she gets the pleasure but is definitely not in love or interested in being in love with him. Ron doesn’t know about the pregnancy and Lana isn’t sure she wants to tell him.

Meanwhile, complications abound. There is a large side story about Lana’s sister Karin and her husband Gene who want children. Karin can’t get pregnant, although doctors can’t understand why, and she is almost obsessive about getting pregnant. Her marriage is on rocky ground due to the issue. Needless to say, Lana is determined to keep her secret as long as she can because she knows Karin will be hurt. In fact, Lana is contemplating giving her child up for adoption, maybe to Karin.

Lana has other issues, too. She and Karin grew up in a fractured home.  Their mother died when they were young and essentially they were raised by their father, Calvert. But Calvert was anything but a loving father. One subplot involves Calvert’s attempts at re-establishing a relationship and both Karin and Lana struggling with it.

The heart of the story is Lana and Eli’s relationship. Eli loves Lana and wants her to recognize that they have something special. He wants her to love him in return. He is upset to learn about Lana’s pregnancy, but partly due to jealousy and partly out of fear that this will keep them apart.  Lana has major commitment issues. She has convinced herself that Eli is just her friend and resents when she starts lusting after him and wanting more. Theirs is definitely not a comfortable relationship. The majority of the tale revolves around them trying to define their relationship.

Lana is a confused young woman and is the weak link in the pair. She is strong at times and then she wimps out. Her saving grace is her vulnerability and her uncanny way of looking at life.  She is likeable even if what she does is frustrating!  Eli is the opposite.  He is all hero, even when he makes dumb choices. He is caring, strong, loyal and romantic. He exudes charm. He also has depth and wants what is best for Lana.

If the story had just been about any one of the many plotlines, it would have been weak. But the complexity of the whole tale is engaging and kept me turning the pages for more. Lisa Dale has managed to combine a romance with a family story that is filled with stops and starts and a friendship that is filled with love. Issues like family loyalty and having self-confidence are handled with skill. It works and for that I am recommending It Happened One Night

--Shirley Lyons 

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