Where There's Smoke
Vermont Valentine

Under His Spell by Kristin Hardy
(Silh. Sp. Ed. # 1786, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-24786-9
Another entry in the “Holiday Hearts” series delivers a tale built around a holiday time frame featuring a friend and cousin of the Trask brothers who were the heroes in the other tales. Under His Spell is fun while bringing in some life-altering changes that fall under the category of growing up and falling in love.

J.J. Cooper is a World Cup skier recuperating from an off-season injury. He ends up in Salem, Massachusetts, meeting up with a cousin of an old friend, Lainie Trask. They knew each other in the past, when J.J. was a gangly but cute teenager and Lainie was a pre-teen with a major crush.

J.J. is known as a lothario around the circuit, primarily because he is single and a celebrity all over Europe. But J.J. is actually starting to be bored with the whole thing and feeling the need for balance in his life. He figures he has another two years of skiing left in his thirty-two year old body and then he has to figure out what to do with his life. He has a few weeks left of rehab before heading off to the training camps and he needs to keep himself entertained. Gabe Trask is getting married and he will be the best man. But he needs more. Lainie looks interesting, especially since he has always found her attractive.

Lainie is a museum curator in Salem, the home of the witches, and loves the Halloween season. But she has been doing this for a while now, and feels there is something missing. She has talked about moving on to other cities and bigger museums, but this is home. She has a foundation here that she knows she would miss if she left. But she also wants love and a family. She isn’t sure she can take the big step though. Lainie has always had a crush on J.J. but has also felt like she is out of his league. He couldn’t possibly be interested in her when he could have any starlet he wanted. When he starts coming around and she gets to see the “real J.J.,” she starts to question what she knows.

Their attraction is instant and builds nicely. J.J. comes to respect what Lainie is doing and offers to help with some charity events and fundraising by pulling in a few skiing friends and donating his time to helping to build a house for some friends of Lainie’s that are down on their luck. Unfortunately, Lainie sees J.J. as a flighty “go off and see the world” skier. She is convinced he will let everyone down. J.J., meanwhile, is out to prove her wrong. .

Lainie is a bit naďve and afraid of life. She is overly cautious, causing her to judge everyone by her ultra conservative views of commitment and black and white issues. J.J. is a good contrast for her, helping her to enjoy life, even some of the simplest things. Lainie grounds J.J. while he offers her fun. It is engaging to watch them resolve some basic differences while fighting the attraction they both feel.

There are past characters from the other stories in the Holiday Hearts series, but the story stands firmly on its own. J.J.’s charm warms the reader while his attempt at finding his future cements his hero status. Lainie is warm and caring and her willingness to question her values fulfills the same purpose for the reader. They are a first-class pair and one the reader easily roots for.

Halloween stories are often scary and creepy. This one is warm and touches the reader. Under His Spell should make a good addition to your holiday reading.

--Shirley Lyons

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