Angel in My Arms
by Colleen Faulkner
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-5882-9
***
Have you ever read a book that has all the elements you like but somehow doesn't move you as it presumably ought? A book your head says you should love, but somehow your heart doesn't get the message?

Wealthy businessman Fox McPhearson travels to the dying town of Carrington, Colorado, fully intending to sell the house he believes is the meager inheritance his father left him. Surprises await him in the Rockies, not the least of them Celeste Kennedy, the beautiful woman who cared for his father in the last months of his life and is now living in the house Fox believes is his.

Not that Fox minds, exactly. Not only is Celeste beautiful, but she's kind, has a good sense of humor and seems to feel as strongly as he the attraction shimmering between them. Before Fox quite knows what he's doing, he's proposed marriage to Celeste. When she turns him down, he realizes he's moved too quickly and made a fool of himself. And he realizes he has nothing to offer her. For he's not the wealthy business man she believes him to be. He's lost everything but the suit he's wearing and ten dollars in his pocket.

When Fox asks Celeste to marry him, she wishes with her whole heart she could say yes. To be wanted by a decent, respectable man in a decent respectable way! But she can't accept him. Rich businessmen like Fox McPhearson don't marry women like her. Whores like her.

Celeste makes her living as "Celeste, the heavenly body," in Big Nose Kate's dance hall. She had taken a leave from her work when she began nursing Fox's father, but it's only a matter of time before circumstances will force her to go back. And now, to complicate matters, into her life comes this wonderful man. A man who will surely stop treating her with consideration and respect when he learns she lives by selling her body.

It took me a little while to adjust to the fact that Celeste was, for all intents and purposes, a prostitute. The copy I read was an advance reader's copy and as such had no back blurb to even hint at the story within. I guess I've seen so many spunky virgins in the last few years it was hard to believe that somehow Celeste wouldn't turn into one. She doesn't. She begins largely as she ends, a strong, warm-hearted woman, determined to make the best of the life she's got and to take care of the one thing that matters to her, her son.

Fox is a very likable hero, occasionally pigheaded but generally willing to admit that he's in a muddle and that his confusion is unfair to Celeste. He works his way through his confusion as best he can and while he does it, he treats Celeste with kindness, respect and as much honesty as his inability to trust her will allow.

Angel in My Arms is a book that contains many of the elements I prefer in my reading: a little risk taking, intelligent lead characters, solid secondary characters, a plot that isn't forced to work. By all rights I should be telling you hunt it down right now. But somehow, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, this romance just didn't sweep me away. I put it down too easily and never felt a yen to pick it up once it was down. Finishing it wasn't hard, but I do wonder how long it would have taken me if I wasn't reviewing it. So all in all, Angel in My Arms is a decent book, one to look up if you're in the mood for an unusual heroine but for me, it never quite lived up to its potential.

--Katy Cooper


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