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Shadow of the Storm by Debra Dier
(Leisure, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8439-4397-1
**
Unrelieved melodrama fueled by a series of "big misunderstandings." This seems to me to be the best description of this reprint of a 1993 release by Debra Dier.

Sabrina O'Neill falls for Ian Tremayne (literally: she tumbles out of a tree) when she is thirteen years old. Taken by the thirteen year old charmer, Ian wonders if her plea for him to wait for her to grow up might not be a good idea. Sabrina goes home to Mississippi and the Civil War happens.

Nine years later, on a riverboat, Sabrina sees two hoodlums attack a passenger and shouts out a warning. Turns out that she has just saved Ian Tremayne's life. He has been her dream during the dark years of the war which saw her two brothers killed and her mother die after the siege of Vicksburg. Now, he has re-entered her life.

For his part, Ian is taken by this beautiful woman who claims to know him. When she identifies herself, he is enchanted both by the woman and by the memory of happier times. Within three days, he is in love and Sabrina is in paradise (and in his bed.) He plans to marry her as soon as possible, but then his assistant informs Ian that Sabrina and her father had been doing a bit of cardsharking. Ian immediately becomes convinced that Sabrina's professed love is a lie, that she like most women is merely after his money. He breaks the engagement, telling the woman he loved a mere ten minutes earlier that he had just been using her. And then he goes home to New York.

Six months later, all New York is talking about Lady Julia Wyndham, daughter of an earl (no, Ms. Dier, an earl's daughter is not a countess) and goddaughter of society grand dame, Caroline Van Courtlandt. When Ian finally meets the Englishwoman he insists that she is really Sabrina O'Neill, Caroline's niece. And to protect his nephew from this evil woman's wiles, he kidnaps her and takes her to his country estate while he sends a detective to England to investigate her identity. (Sabrina has disguised herself to gain revenge against Ian, but, frankly, I never quite understood what she was planning to do to pay him back for his betrayal.)

Well, proximity convinces Ian what he has long feared that he is obsessed by this woman. And so, unable to live without her, he forces her to marry her. Finally, on page 237, he realizes that maybe he has been wrong about Sabrina (duh!). Of course, now Sabrina doesn't trust him a new "big misunderstanding." Just to confuse the matter, someone is trying to murder Ian and suspicion falls on Sabrina and/or her father.

I really can't recommend this book. Dier does her usual good job with the love scenes, but otherwise, neither the story nor the characters made much sense to me. Especially given the fact that this a reprint of a 1993 release, I do feel that readers should think twice before purchasing Shadow of the Storm.

--Jean Mason


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