Picture Perfect

Under at Blue Moon
by Shirley Harrison
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG) ISBN 1-58314-049-2
When two full moons occur within a month, the second one is called a "blue moon." According to author Shirley Harrison, the blue moon has special redemptive powers. Under a Blue Moon, a romantic suspense, is Harrison's second novel.

Attorney Philip Manchester is involved in shady business dealings with even shadier clients. It has cost him his marriage to jewelry designer Angelica Palmer Manchester. After vigorously fighting the divorce for several months, Philip suddenly relents. He has invited his soon-to-be ex-wife aboard his yacht, the Angelica, under the guise of finalizing the divorce.

But Philip's past life and business associates catch up with him aboard the yacht. A struggle ensues. The next (and only) thing Angelica knows is that she has washed ashore with a mysterious key attached to her ankle chain. The key is inscribed with the name "Angie."

"Angie" is found on the small island off the Florida Keys by Dr. Matthew Sinclair and his dog, Buster. It has been a year since his wife's death -- under mysterious medical circumstances. Although he has been exonerated in her death, Matt is still carrying a great deal of guilt. He and his dog and his guilt have gone off for a week to escape from the outside world.

As Angelica sets out to unravel her past and the secrets held by the mysterious key in her possession, she is also intent on unearthing Matt's.

I am not a big fan of amnesia romances because all too-often the heroine is portrayed as a victim. She is often rendered helpless by her lack of memory. She is generally dependent upon the hero for her care and feeding.

Under a Blue Moon is better than most because Angelica Parker Manchester is no shrinking violet. She does not allow herself to be spoon-fed information about her surroundings from Matt. Frustrated by her lack of memory, she is not accepting of the situation because Matt says it is so. She's got to see for herself. She demands to be taken to the place where she was found to see if she can trigger a return of her memory. She's a gutsy heroine who wants to know everything she can about this brooding man she has been forced to spend a week with on a secluded island. As Matt and Angelica's relationship develops, it is all the more believable because of Shirley Harrison's strong characterization of her heroine.

When Angelica's disappearance is eventually discovered, her older brother Reed and her best friend and attorney Jillian Madison join in the search. As they reluctantly work together to find out what happened to Angelica, an attraction develops. This secondary relationship is often more interesting and satisfying than that of the main characters.

But Reed and Jillian arenít the only people looking for Angelica. The authorities and Philip's associates all want her. As Angelica's memory returns in stages, she uncovers the truth.

Under a Blue Moon is an interesting romance. Shirley Harrison is developing her romantic suspense skills. This one's worth a look.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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