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To the Edge by Cindy Gerard
(St. Martinís, $ 6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-99091-X
**
The choice of To the Edge as this bookís title seems pretty meaningless ... unless itís intended to be a warning that the plot goes to the edge and no farther. The story establishes a premise but doesnít carry through. I quickly grew bored and had a difficult time finishing it.

Palm Beach TV anchorwoman Jillian Kincaid has been getting death threats. She is inclined to regard them as a sick joke, but her fabulously wealthy father is not so blasť. He hires Nolan Garrett to be her bodyguard until the perpetrator can be found.

Nolan is an ex-Army Ranger and works for E.D.E.N., a family-run security firm. The name comes from the initials of the founderís children. Nolan is the youngest sibling; all four currently work for the firm. Nolan is separated from the Army; several deaths have left him with emotional scars.

Jillian lives in an expensive, secure high-rise, but Nolan easily penetrates its security. He enters her condo stealthily, coming face to face with her in the bathroom when sheís only wearing a towel. Jillian is understandably shaken. Her father insists she needs a bodyguard, and Nolan moves in. She also has some emotional problems due to having been born a poor little rich girl and frequently ignored by her parents.

Jillian continues her work as a TV journalist. She is currently trying to convince an amnesiac, John Smith, to allow her to do a feature story on him in hopes that it will lead to someone being able to identify him.

Nolan and Jillian are strongly attracted to each other, and the death threats keep coming.

There are many problems with To the Edge.

There are small problems. Jillian has recently had her hair dyed auburn, but in the first scene sheís wearing a cranberry suit with red pumps. Ouch! Lance Corporal is a rank only in the Marines, not the Army.

There are big problems. Nolan canít take his eyes off Jillian. Heís supposed to be guarding her: he should be looking at the people around her not at her. The initial face-to-face in Jillianís bathroom is more than a little creepy. The very first night on the job Nolan takes Jillian to a biker bar to help an old Army buddy in a fight. When they attend a large charity function at a swanky club, he lets her go to the restroom without escorting her there or checking inside. Some bodyguard!

Jillian is one of those too-perfect heroines itís difficult to feel much sympathy for. Her life has been a sequence of one success after another: she was an Olympic gymnast as a teenager; sheís got a high-profile career with a promising future, sheís gorgeous, sheís rich. Itís true she canít cook, but thereís always take-out.

The whole bodyguard set-up in To the Edge is just an excuse for Jillian and Nolan to get close real fast and lust, lust, lust. Character development amounts to establishing theyíve both got emotional problems and not much more. The plot is poorly paced. Much of the story line adheres to that old military tactic: hurry up and wait. The action is sporadic with lots of opportunity for intermittent lust. Setting is not much more than wallpaper: Jillianís kitchen has yellow walls, the charity function is held at Donald Trumpís Mar-a-Lago. This does little to create a sense of atmosphere that enhances the plot.

To the Edge is the first in a series, ďThe Bodyguards.Ē The heroine of the next installment is Nolanís sister Eve and another member of E.D.E.N. The other two siblings may be getting their own books in the future.

The back cover of To the Edge invites comparison with the books of Suzanne Brockmann and Linda Howard. This may be unwise. Suzanne Brockmannís recent book, Hot Target, features the same general plot Ė a movie producerís receipt of death threats leads to her getting a military-hunk bodyguard. With its more complex plot and solid character development, Hot Target completely overshadows To the Edge.

--Lesley Dunlap


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