Meant for Each Other
by Ginna Gray
(Silh. Sp. Ed. 1221, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24221-2
**
This is the eighth book in the Blaine/McCall Family Series, begun in 1987. All of the titles are listed at the end of the book. Normally I recommend that a series be read in order. It was obvious that I was missing information about lots of characters. Did it hinder my reading pleasure? Perhaps. When the various relatives were mentioned, I knew that I was being given a glimpse of a story from another book. So, those of you who like family sagas may have more books to find.

Dr. Leah Albright's younger half-brother Quinton needs a bone marrow transplant soon. He'll die without a compatible donor. Leah knows a terrible secret; Dr. Mike McCall will make the perfect donor. He and Quinton are half brothers and don't even know they're related. Julia, their mother, abandoned Mike and his father more than twenty-five years ago. She married Leah's father and later had her second son, Quinton.

Using subterfuge, Leah convinces Mike to be tested. When he does prove to be a compatible donor, Leah is jubilant that Quinton has a chance. At seventeen, his life is just beginning. She feels guilt at her duplicity, but she's afraid to tell Mike the truth, fearing that he'll back out because of his hatred toward his mother. So she keeps quiet, thinking that Mike will be a donor and then disappear.

Wrong.

Mike and Quinton form a bond as Leah helplessly watches her younger brother blossom in the presence of a man she is falling in love with. She begins a juggling act, keeping Mike away from Quinton's room when her parents, both self-indulgent and narcissistic, visit. As she's swept along by this wonderful, charismatic man, the situation spirals out of her control.

The Big Misunderstanding is a plot device that we've seen many times before. Instead of a murderer creeping up on the innocent miss, we've got the truth creeping up. Why is it that when we hear the phrase, I'll love you forever, in a book which bases its story line on the Big Misunderstanding, we know that this love will be conditional and retracted at the moment when the truth becomes known? As soon as the Big Misunderstanding is revealed, one or the other pouts and stalks away. Don't expect any radical deviations from that formula in this story either.

Ginna Gray has always had a knack for writing a first class hero, one so likable, so gifted with the good guy attributes, that he carries the story. Mike is no different. He's caring, tender, loyal to his family and has a quirky sense of humor. His knock-knock jokes are so bad that they're good. Mike is the only thing that makes this story palatable. This is one time however, when the hero is not strong enough to compensate for how weak and how ineffectual the heroine is. Leah is vapid, her conversations stilted and I never felt more than lukewarm toward her. With Mike so charismatic and warm, I couldn't figure out what he saw in her. She's so lifeless that even the intimate scenes fell flat.

Aside from the lies of omission, the Big Misunderstanding and the inconsistency between the mismatched lead characters, there is one more thing. The lovely Julia, Mike and Quinton's mother and Leah's stepmother, is a woman who could make Cinderella's stepmother seem like June Cleaver. I'm sure that there are people who are this self-centered and empty of the milk of human kindness, but do we need 200+ pages detailing them?

After I listed what I liked about this book, I realized it's a short list: Mike. On the negative column, there's a tepid heroine, a Big Misunderstanding that was so long that I was actually dreading reading the explosion and a witch of a mother. When I look at plus and minus columns, I can't recommend Made for Each Other, nor can I even call it acceptable.

--Linda Mowery


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