Against the Wind

Beyond Desire

Fools Rush In

Midnight Magic

Naked Soul


Secret Desire

Swept Away

Wedding Bells

Scarlet Woman by Gwynne Forster
(Arabesque/BET, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-192-8
No good deed goes unpunished. Ask Melinda Jones Rodgers.

Prescott Rodgers contacted his local high school offering to pay a student to read to him. When a student willing to take the job could not be found, English teacher Melinda Jones volunteered to read to him a couple hours a week at no charge. Soon Melinda was reading to Prescott every day.

The reclusive Prescott Rodgers was a brilliant man, an inventor. But Prescott was also a man with a secret. Only Melinda knew he was dyslexic and could neither read nor write. A companionate relationship developed between the two. He later proposed a marriage of convenience to silence the gossip about her daily visits and ease his loneliness. In an effort to escape her overbearing father, Melinda agreed. The two were married. She was 24; he was 68. The town rumormongers are not appeased by the marriage. The good people of Endicott City, Maryland branded Melinda with a scarlet letter “G” for gold digger.

Scarlet Woman begins nearly five years later. Melinda and her parents have gathered for the reading of Prescott’s will which requires her to establish a foundation to promote literacy and help those with reading disabilities, and to marry within a year’s time or lose everything.

Getting married may be the easiest thing for Melinda to do as suitors are literally crawling out of the woodwork to propose to her. Establishing the foundation proves to be a bit more difficult because of her tarnished reputation. A number of citizens grudgingly agree to serve on the foundation’s board, not out of respect for Prescott, but for what being part of the group will do to enhance their social status in the small town.

Prescott’s attorney Blake Edmund Hunter, who will monitor her compliance with the provisions of the will, is among those in town who believes the widow Rodgers married a man nearly 45 years her senior for his money. He can hardly contain his distrust of her. However, Blake’s attitude conceals a secret of his own. He is attracted to his client’s young widow. Melinda, who also has a big secret, has noticed Blake.

And, as Blake and Melinda begin to work together, they discover their mutual attraction. If the town tongues are wagging now, imagine what will happen with the widow Rodgers finds her HEA with her late husband’s attorney and executor of the estate?

Melinda is a naive young woman and the latest Forster heroine to be overtaken by a domineering male parental figure. She is ultimately is victimized by three very different men who have each claimed to care for her well-being. And, although the bantering between the two main characters is often light, the overall chemistry between Melinda and Blake seems forced. Because of Melinda’s alienation from the townsfolk, most secondary characters are unable to add much. Her best friend and her parents - the always right Rev. Booker Jones and his long-suffering wife - have distracting issues of their own. In addition, I found something amiss in the resolution of the mystery involving one of Prescott’s former business associates.

It was good seeing Justine, Duncan and Tonya Banks from Forster’s Fools Rush In. That book, Beyond Desire, Against the Wind, Against All Odds and Sealed with a Kiss are the Gwynne Forster romances I recommend.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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