Island Magic

One of a Kind

When a Man Loves a Woman
by Bette Ford
(Arabesque/BET, $6.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-237-1
When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Trying to hold on to what he needs
He'd give up all his comforts
And sleep out in the rain
If she said that's the way
It ought to be
- When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge

Zachary and Amanda Daniels McFadden are marking their first wedding anniversary. Mr. McFadden sent his wife roses and a gold bracelet encrusted with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Mrs. McFadden sent her husband divorce papers.

Zachary and Amanda grew up together on neighboring ranches in Colorado. After her mother's tragic death, her paternal grandfather brought her to live with him on the Double-D. Zachary and his two younger brothers lived with their parents on the Circle M. Amanda's grandfather became Zachary's mentor and confidante.

Several years later, Amanda and Zach were devastated by the news that her grandfather had terminal cancer. An attempt at consoling each other evolved into a moment of passion. Amanda became pregnant and the two were married. Shortly thereafter, Jake Daniels died and Amanda miscarried after a riding accident. Spiraling into a deep depression, she left the Circle M and threw herself into her design business 160 miles away in Denver. Zach decides she needs time and space to deal with her grief.

The divorce papers force Zach to realize that perhaps he has given Amanda too much time and space. He loves her, wants to save their marriage and eventually convinces her to give him a year to make it happen. Further to that end, he moves into her apartment in Denver and commutes between the Circle M every day. All Amanda has to do is be home and have dinner ready once he gets there. Talk about a marriage of convenience!

As a subplot, the author has included the issue of domestic violence and how it impacts the survivors. Amanda is afraid to love Zach because her mother accepted her father's abusive behavior as part of their "love." However, Amanda has at least four strong examples of nonviolent, loving and long-lasting relationships that she conveniently overlooks in her own abuse of Zach's feelings.

Amanda Ann Daniels McFadden is a 28-year-old entrepreneur who has built a successful design studio and has spun off a syndicated television program and home accessories line. However, she is TSTL. While a heroine may be vulnerable, she should not be so flawed that readers lose respect for the hero for wanting her. Zach is a strong hero who spends most of the novel begging a woman - whom he has not wronged - to return to him. At one point, I didn't really mind that Amanda's meddling mother-in-law had found a replacement for her.

For her part, Amanda never considers that Zach has lost a child, a mentor and a wife and shows no compassion for his losses. While she steadfastly tends to her design business, she has abdicated her responsibility to her beloved grandfather's legacy and has left the ranch and the employees to fend for themselves.

When a Man Loves a Woman combines very predictable plot elements with clichéd characters - the mother-in-law from Hell, the-lady- in-waiting and the abusive father. The "she loves him, she loves him not" aspect of the book slows down the pace of the 352-page book considerably. In addition, the ending and resolution of each of the conflicts are too pat.

Bette Ford is an author whose work I usually enjoy. Her novels of complex characters and sensuous love scenes are must-reads for me. I am at a loss to explain what happened this time.

And, while I cannot recommend When a Man Loves a Woman, I strongly suggest After Dark. It is, in my opinion, a five-heart read that combines the best elements of her work. If you've never read a Bette Ford romance, After Dark is an excellent place to start.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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