The Brain And The Beauty
by Betsy Eliot
(Silh. Romance #1605, $3.99, G) ISBN 0-373-19605-9
*****
I generally like my romances hot, but every now and then I find nothing more satisfying than a fairy tale. Betsy Eliot’s debut takes the classic beauty and the beast plot, drops in three interesting characters, and provides some good, old-fashioned, just-kisses romance.

Abby Melrose is a woman on a mission. Her five-year-old son, Robbie, has a 180 IQ and she is overwhelmed with making vital decisions about his future. Desperate for help, she seeks out the reclusive Dr. Jeremy Waters. Packing up herself and her son, they drive over 500 miles, only to discover a rude man who only wants to be left alone.

Jeremy is genius who spent his well-publicized youth being stared at like a circus freak. Hoping to help other exceptional young people, he opened his own school for the gifted. When a tragedy occurs, he closes the school and isolates himself in his rambling estate. He tries to brush Abby off, insisting he can’t and won’t help her or her son. However, the stubborn woman just won’t take no for an answer.

Abby won’t take no for an answer because she is as fierce as a mother bear protecting her cub. She loves Robbie, but she feels ill equipped to help her son. Normal level schools won’t take him because he’s too advanced. Higher-level schools won’t take him because of his age. And home schooling? Please. Abby barely got through high school and never attended college. She needs to find a learning environment for her son that not only stimulates his intellect, but also allows him to be a kid. She firmly believes that Jeremy has some answers, and she’s not about to leave until she gets them.

What makes Eliot’s debut such a gem is the sheer joy to be had in her characters. Abby is wonderful - a beautiful, young, single mother who short-changes herself in the brains department. Divorced from Robbie’s father, and lacking educational credentials, she starts her own business to support them. She’s a smart, savvy, nurturing, no-nonsense gal who is not about to let anyone tell her there’s nothing to be done. She railroads Jeremy into her helping her with finesse, charisma, and pure strength.

Jeremy is a classic, beast-like, wounded hero. While he’s a genius, he is sorely lacking in the interpersonal relations department. Abby opens up the whole world to him, showing him what he’s been missing by locking himself away. While he tries to resist, he’s not a machine. He soon finds himself attracted to Abby, not only for her stunning good looks, but her compassionate nature as well.

Opposites attract is an age-old adage, but it never fails to intrigue. Eliot has created two seemingly different people, and the way she weaves the story, allowing them to find their way to one another is a joy. Tossing Robbie into the mix, she creates a precocious young man, while not losing sight of the fact that he is a child. There’s a wonderful scene between Robbie and Jeremy, when he tells the man that he better not “make his mother cry like she used to.”

Eliot’s debut is proof-positive that good things can come in small packages. Here’s hoping Silhouette has her wrapped up for more wonderful stories, and that she has other gems ready to put to paper.

--Wendy Crutcher


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