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Love Will Find a Way
by Barbara Freethy
(Avon, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-81555-9
****
Are you like me? Do you sometimes want to read a straightforward contemporary romance, with no serial killers or talking dogs or cowboys or secret babies? Do you enjoy a story with two more or less normal people who find love? If so, then you may well enjoy Love Will Find a Way.

Six months before the story begins, Gary Tanner died on a mountain road near Lake Tahoe. He left behind him a twenty-eight year old widow, Rachel; an eight year old son, Wesley; and his best friend since childhood, Dylan Prescott. All mourn the blond and handsome young architect who whose breezy manner and happy personality had meant so much to them.

One day, Rachel appears at the job site where Dylan is working with a startling announcement: the insurance company is refusing to pay the $500,000 policy that Gary had taken out some months before his death. They insist that his death is suspicious. Rachel recalls that Gary had seemed distracted in the days before he died. She doesnít know why he had gone to Nevada. She wants answers and believes that his best friend will have them.

Dylan rejects the idea that Gary had killed himself but he knows that they have to reconstruct what was going on during those final days. When he and Rachel visit the apartment that Gary kept in San Francisco, they discover a bottle of perfume. Could he have been unfaithful to Rachel? Was he not as happy in his marriage as she believed? Did he have a life she knew nothing about? Dylan and Rachel agree to work together to try to uncover the truth.

Dylan and Rachel have spent very little time together during the years of Garyís marriage. Gary had met her when she was selling apples from her familyís farm and had swept her off her feet. During the courtship, Rachel had spent almost as much time with Dylan as with her fiancť and on the night before the wedding, there had been a moment, a stolen kiss which had left them both shaken. They had never spoken of this and Dylan had avoided Rachel as much as possible. But he had never gotten over the lovely young woman who had married his best friend. Now the two must work together to solve the mystery of Garyís death.

Both Rachel and Dylan had unhappy childhoods and had carried the wounds of the past into adulthood. Rachelís artist mother had abandoned her husband and daughters to pursue her art. Her father had died shortly after she married. Rachel had chosen to stay at her familyís apple farm in familiar surroundings while her husband spent his weekdays in the city or traveling.

Dylanís family had fallen apart when his little brother died of cystic fibrosis and he had never again felt part of a family. He has become a very successful building contractor but work had taken priority over his personal life. Like Gary, he had found Rachelís close knit family especially appealing.

The quest for the truth brings Rachel and Dylan together and forces them to confront that long ago embrace and what it meant in the past and might mean for the future. It also draws Dylan into the midst of Rachelís family: her devoted grandparents, her confused sister and her troubled son. Wesley begins to come out of his shell thanks to Dylanís presence.

There is a bit of fantasy in the story centering on the power of apples from a magical tree to foster true and lasting love but it doesnít intrude on the reality of Dylanís and Rachelís feelings for each other. Rachel is understandably upset at the thought that the husband she truly loved might have been unfaithful. Freethyís handling of the mystery is cleverly done, but that is all I can say.

Love Will Find a Way is an entertaining and at times moving contemporary romance. The characters are real people with real feelings that they have to work through. I have always enjoyed Freethyís romances and can only hope that she will continue to write this kind of realistic, emotional story. She does it so well.

--Jean Mason


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