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Lake News by Barbara Delinsky
(Simon & Schuster, $24.00, PG) ISBN 0-684-86432-0
Barbara Delinsky has moved away from her romance roots, but not too far. While her new release Lake News tends in its subject matter and format to be more of a “mainstream” novel than a traditional romance, it does contain a delightful love story which should make this book an enjoyable read for Delinsky’s many fans.

The subject matter is both timely and important. Lake News deals with the damage that a runaway and irresponsible press can do to an innocent person caught in one of its feeding frenzies.

The story begins in the small town of Lake Henry, New Hampshire. John Kipling had come home to be editor of the local newspaper, after his successful career as a journalist at a major Boston newspaper turned sour. A story he pursued with all the required gusto resulted in the destruction and suicide of a prominent politician. John later discovered that a rival reporter had set him up with false information. John is happy to have returned to the lovely town and its beautiful lake; he enjoys the slower pace with time out to watch the loons who make Lake Henry their home. But, like most journalists, he dreams of writing a book that will make him famous.

Imagine John’s surprise when his rival calls him for information about one of the town’s former residents, Lily Blake, the daughter of one of the town’s prominent families. Terry Sullivan claims he wants the information for one of his friends who is dating Lily. John smells a rat and refuses to cooperate.

The scene shifts to Boston. Lily Blake had left Lake Henry at eighteen to pursue a singing career. She had studied music in college and at Julliard and although she is a talented singer and pianist, she had never made the big time. But Lily is happy with her life. She teaches music at a private school and every evening, she sings and plays the piano at one of Boston’s best private clubs. She has met and made friends with a lot of well known people, including Bishop Francis Rosetti, the newly appointed archbishop of the Boston diocese, soon to be elevated to cardinal.

Terry Sullivan has been pestering her for an interview; he claims he is doing a series on local entertainers. One evening, after “Fr. Fran” had joined Lily for an impromptu duet at the club, Sullivan insists on walking Lily home. He brings the conversation around to her friendship with the new archbishop. The next morning, Lily wakes up to headlines claiming that she is the archbishop’s mistress.

What follows is painful to read. The press, in all its gory glory, descends on Lily, pries into her life, misinterprets her actions, hounds her continually, and literally destroys her. Lily flees to the sanctuary of Lake Henry and the small cottage her grandmother left her.

John realizes that Lily has been set up and is appalled at what the press has done to her. But he also sees a chance to write that book. He approaches her, gradually overcomes her understandable hostility, and, in the process, they fall in love. Suddenly, the book seems less important than justice for Lily.

There is much more to Lake News than the love story and the story of Lily’s plight. Both John and Lily have serious issues to work out with their respective parents, issues that continue to haunt them. The troubled family dynamics of both the Blake and the Kipling families provide an added dimension to the story.

Delinsky is marvelously evocative as she describes both the setting and the people of Lake Henry. Her word pictures of the lake in autumn are so well drawn that the reader can see its serene beauty and hear the cries of the loons as they prepare for the migration south. Likewise, Delinsky creates a vivid set of secondary characters, the people of the town who distrust outsiders and who protect their own.

Lake News is a compelling book. It deals with an important and topical issue and does a superb job of describing the dangers of an irresponsible press which vilifies a person on page one and prints an apology on page ten. Lake News is also a romantic book. Lily and John are characters who find love in the most unlikely circumstances.

Barbara Delinsky honed her writing skills in the romance genre and although she has “crossed over” into the mainstream, she has not lost her romantic sensibilities. Her fans who have followed her from categories to single titles to hardback will not be disappointed with Lake News. This is a very fine book.

--Jean Mason

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