Breathless

Charade

 
Not So Innocent by Laura Lee Guhrke
(Pocket Sonnet, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-671-12369-1
****
Scotland Yard Inspector Mick Dunbar is, quite simply, one of the best romance heroes in recent memory. Smart, handsome, self-effacing, and definitely not of the nobility, heís darn near perfect. And he gets an almost-perfect match in Sophie Haversham.

Sophie has the gift of foresight. It comes and goes; she never knows when one of her visions will strike, or what it will bring. Her most recent vision was one of death - a policeman, lying in a bloody heap near a statue of Robert Burns in a London public garden. Not knowing what to do, Sophie has come to the police. She is shocked when the man in her vision walks through the door, and sets into motion a chain of events that will change both of their lives. For itís Mick Dunbarís death Sophie has foreseen.

Mick isnít sure what to make of the pretty, slightly downtrodden young woman calmly describing his future death. She must be a quack, or a clever con artist. He sends her on her way, dismissing her tale as nothing more than the result of a wild imagination. Then Mick is shot at, in the very same park she described, and he comes to the conclusion that Sophie Haversham is more than a quack. She might even have been the small figure he spied fleeing the scene. Mick tracks Sophie to her auntís rooming house, and decides to take the one available room in order to keep an eye on her.

Someone is trying to kill Mick, and Sophie as well. Suddenly Mickís neat, orderly life is turned upside-down. Heís attracted to Sophie, even comes to believe she is probably innocent, but he canít quite bring himself to believe her story of psychic abilities. What is she really hiding? What is her eccentric Aunt Violet up to? How far will Sophie go to protect her family?

All valid questions, and itís fun watching Mick try to rationalize things he really canít explain. Sophie isnít as innocent as she seems, though her psychic abilities are true. Her reaction to Mick is honest and forthright, and when she decides to toss caution to the winds and embark upon an affair with him, itís plenty steamy. Sophie knows Mick isnít interested in marriage, not with her at any rate. Sheís already been jilted by one fiancť. No man wants a woman who knows his thoughts. But Sophie never descends into self-pity. Sheís an admirable heroine with an unusual talent, and rather than hiding it, sheís trying to do the right thing with it.

Mick, thirty-six with no family, is ready to settle down, but canít find the right woman. No wonder - she doesnít exist. Mick stubbornly clings to his ideal of what a prospective wife should be, all the while falling in love with this most un-ideal woman right under his nose. In the end, Mick gives Sophie a sense of value, and Sophie helps Mick face reality. Their journey to love is a wonderful trip for the reader.

Laura Lee Guhrke is an inventive author with a clean, crisp style. The story moves briskly, and my only caveat is that Mick and Sophieís backgrounds are both rather rushed. Sophie, in particular, is given short shrift. Her odious mother and sister are about all that suffice for backstory, and they are so thoroughly obnoxious that one wonders why she wouldnít have run away from them even without the stain of her psychic abilities and the embarrassment of being jilted. Overall, though, Not So Innocentis an enchanting romance with two lively leads who may well steal your heart. I sense that Ms. Guhrke is going on a lot of ďauto-buyĒ lists with this release.

--Cathy Sova


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