Dreams by Rita Clay Estrada
(Harl. Temp. 687, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-25787-2
Dating a divorced man has got to be tough, especially if the man in question is such good friends with his ex-wife that they're business partners who see each other daily. How can a woman compete when she thinks that he's still in love with his ex?

That's exactly the predicament that Mary Ellen Gallagher finds herself in. For the first time in several years Mary is attracted to a man. Dynamic, charismatic, sexy Greg Torrance has hired Mary to make an advertising video for his company. She knows that she needs to keep the relationship on a business level. However, tell that to her hormones . . . and Greg, who's intrigued by this woman who's competent yet vulnerable.

Mary's vulnerability comes from being jilted the night before her wedding. It seems that her ex-fiancÚ was in love with an old flame and had begun dating Mary on the rebound. Mary promises herself that it won't happen a second time. She's seen Greg with his ex-wife and assumes that he's still in love with her. We've all heard that love is blind. In Mary's case, sometimes it's scared and stupid and judgmental and . . . very patient.

Greg, aware of Mary's wedding betrayal, knows that ultimately she must let go of past fears, imagined inadequacies and simply trust him. He understands Mary's discomfort regarding his daily dealings with his ex, but knows that when Mary finally does believe in him, the ex will cease to be a problem. His promises or assurances to her won't matter one whit . . . unless she trusts him.

In an author's hands whose writing is less polished than Estrada's, this premise could have come off as hackneyed and stereotyped. Not so here. We feel Mary's fear, her doubts, her reluctance, her joy and, at last, her gentle acknowledgment that she does trust Greg. I was amazed at how much I empathized with Mary. She sees Greg with the ex and notices their camaraderie, their ease and is jealous and very reluctant to think that she has a chance. Estrada had me right there in Mary's mind, seeing the situation through Mary's perspective. Knowing that Greg really cares eased my worries, but I still saw Mary's side so easily, so clearly. Estrada's effective use of believable dialog and clear points of view make this story more textured and interesting.

With twenty plus books to her credit, Rita Clay Estrada's name is associated with the elite of the Romance world. There are reasons why the prestigious RITA award is named for her. One of the reasons is Dreams.

--Linda Mowery

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