A Bridge to Love
by Nancy Herkness
(Berkley Sensation, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-19126-5
***
New author Nancy Herkness offers readers a fairly entertaining contemporary romance in A Bridge to Love. Especially attractive are the middle-aged hero and heroine. Despite more than a few plot cliches and some silly behavior, the author has a cheery style that bodes well for her future releases.

Kate Chilton has been a widow for over a year, since her architect husband David died, leaving her with two sons and no job. Kate had been a civil engineer before their marriage, and gave it up to be a stay-at-home wife. When the story opens, Kate is at a college reunion with her friend Georgia, where she spots a very attractive man, Randall Johnson. Randall is a multi-millionaire businessman, and after a brief, amusing conversation, he invites Kate to dinner. Upset at the fact that she was actually flirting with a man right after thinking about her dead husband, Kate refuses.

David’s business partners want to buy Kate out of the firm, and one of them Oliver, is interested in Kate. But the offer seems low. When Kate digs into David’s files, she discovers a love note to David from “Sylvia”. Obviously, David had been having an affair before his death. Kate is shocked and hurt, and decides the best revenge is to have an affair herself, preferably a one-night stand. Randall Johnson seems like the perfect candidate.

Kate contacts Randall, who is intrigued. Kate makes good on her vow, having sex with Randall before they even get to dinner. Of course, it’s earth-shattering, and when Kate informs Randall that they can’t see each other again, he refuses to take no for an answer.

The story is basically one of “lust turning to love”. Randall never gets emotionally involved, but finds he can’t resist Kate. This is problematic, because in order for an author to make readers believe this, the heroine has to be something special, and Kate, frankly, is not. She’s far too impetuous (“My dead husband was a cheating liar so I’ll show him! I’ll sleep around myself!” What the hell?) and for a woman of thirty-eight, seems remarkably clueless about the economic realities of life. David has been dead for a year and Kate finds that the money is running out. She might have to go back to work! Why has it taken her a year to figure this out? And why is it such a shock to think she might have to support herself and her kids?

Randall’s character is much more straightforward. He’s never fallen in love with a woman, not seriously, and is puzzled by his attraction to this soccer mom. At first glance, they have little in common other than the sex. But Randall has a few ghosts in his closet, dating back to high school when he was a star quarterback. His current business dealings are set up to right an old wrong – an act of revenge, himself. He never deludes Kate about his feelings, and his refusal to let her back away was rather touching.

Plot cliches abound, starting with the cheating husband. Why is it that so many romance heroines have scumbags for husbands? Then there’s Kate’s job. After being out of the workforce for twelve years, she is immediately given a major engineering project to oversee, because, of course, she’s the only one who can think up a solution to a design problem. Uh huh. Then there’s the resolution of Randall’s revenge plot, which takes place in five minutes and results in a complete turnaround in his part. This felt completely unlikely. And the kids are darn near perfect.

I did appreciate having lead characters who weren’t twenty-somethings. Kate faces some realistic challenges in trying to balance work and family time, and when a crisis hits one of her sons, her pain at not being there for him is well done.

There were a few plot elements that didn’t make sense. Randall was a high-school football star, but we’re told that he starred on the soccer team at Princeton (hence he gets to help Kate’s kids with their soccer skills). Um, those are two pretty unrelated sports. Oliver, the nuisancy business partner, makes an abrupt exit out of the story and is never heard from again. And the ending of the book was strange. A completely unnecessary element was tossed in, and it felt like the obligatory “action sequence” at the end of a movie. Maybe that’s where the publisher hopes this story will be headed?

But these quibble aside, A Bridge to Love offers enough entertainment to make it worth a look. The style is breezy and cheerful, the writing is clean and crisp, and with a little more originality in plotting, Nancy Herkness may well be on her way to a solid career in contemporary romance. I’ll be watching for her next release.

--Cathy Sova


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