A Husband Waiting to Happen
by Marie Ferrarella
(Silhouette Intimate Moments #842, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07842-0
Want to start the New Year with a warm and fuzzy feeling? A Husband Waiting to Happen is the year's first book to evoke that response from me. The wonder is that Ferrarella did it with a plot line as old as the printed word, spiced up with a modern issue, but accomplished entirely by the characters and the mood she creates with the tool of dialogue. Or at least, it felt that way to me.

Julia and Caroline had been best friends from elementary school. From an early age, both were in love with Sloan Walters, but Caroline was the odd girl out. Happily, she has been able to conceal her crush on him. Predictably, Sloan and Julia married. They had two sons and then Julia was killed in a car accident. This story starts a year after her death.

Caroline is now a pediatrician practicing at a clinic in a nearby state. Her mother calls one night and begs her to come home because her father is getting abnormally forgetful. She takes a one month leave of absence and is home grocery shopping when she literally runs into Sloan.

Sloan had always thought of Caroline as a good friend to both him and to his deceased wife. Although he had shut her out along with everyone else at his wife's funeral, he wants to renew their friendship. She notices his grocery cart is limited to TV dinners, so she offers to cook a meal for them. It is a rare occasion for his family since he doesn't do anything social, because he has been so busy compulsively filling his time as a father, a teacher, and even as a play director in order to avoid grieving.

On the home front, Caroline is faced with the Alzheimer's issue as she watches her beloved father exhibit more and more of the symptoms. With Sloan she confronts the reality that before he can heal he must give himself permission to grieve. Rounding out the book is the positive energy generated by Caroline's relationship with Sloan's young sons, Joey and Danny.

Sound like an old retread? Could have been, but Ferrarella's talent makes the difference. She did not make this book incredibly complex, nor does she achieve the resolution through new and creative devices. However, she sets just the right tone to draw the reader in.

She fashions her characters, not by long descriptive narratives, but by their snappy, breezy and often humorous dialogue. To be able to do this, and still handle these issues with poignancy and sensitivity, takes a rare ability that is truly admirable…and is definitely the necessary ingredient for a keeper.

--Thea Davis

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