A Fortune's Children Christmas
by Lisa Jackson, Barbara Boswell & Linda Turner
(Silhouette, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-48368-6
Silhouette's "Fortune's Children" series was obviously so successful, that it has been brought back for a second run. This anthology by three of the best known category writers inaugurates the new incarnation of this incredibly complex and extensive family. The matriarch, Kate Fortune, now celebrating her eightieth birthday, is once again busy trying to manipulate the lives of her young relative, this time three of her grand-nephews. The three novellas that tell the stories of Chase, Ryder, and Hunter are, on the whole, pleasant if predictable.

At the Fortune Christmas party, Kate takes each of her nephews aside and makes them an offer they can't refuse. She gives them a less than successful piece of the vast Fortune holdings a ranch, an industrial design firm, a construction company and informs them that if they can pull a turn around in a year, the property is theirs.

Chase Fortune has had a tragic life, losing his twin brother, his family ranch, and his wife and child. In "Angel Baby," Lisa Jackson tells his story. This is a fairly typical "pregnant woman in snowstorm is rescued by handsome hero who helps bring baby into the world" plot. Now, I'm a bit of a sucker for this plot, so I don't mean to disparage the storyline. And Jackson is an author who knows how to tell a good tale. However, there was nothing in this particular rendition to set it apart. A perfectly acceptable novella.

Barbara Boswell offered my favorite of the three stories. Ryder Fortune had refused to follow in his father's footsteps, despite his degree in industrial design. Instead, he had hared off to the Fortune diamond mines in Africa. He is now done with adventuring, but the firm he could have inherited has been sold. Kate offers him a different firm that needs a lot of work. And so he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

When Michael Fortune, knowing he needs a new staff, palms off his sister-in-law on his cousin, Ryder feels he can't say no, despite Joanna Chandler's spotty work history. Those who followed the original series will remember Joanna as the sister of Julia, the girl who had been in a horrible automobile accident and who had gone through years of operations and therapy.

Ryder is attracted to the petite brunette, but she is not a complete success as his administrative assistant. She is all too easily distracted (a residue of her horrible injuries.) And Joanna herself is all too aware of her limitations and is convinced that she does not have the qualities required of a prospective Fortune wife. How the two work out their relationship is delightfully drawn by Boswell.

Linda Turner's entry is a "danger brings two people together and the sparks fly" plot. I have never been a big fan of the "instant attraction" scenario, but admit that Turner does a nice job of making it as plausible as possible.

Naomi Windsong's ex-lover (a real jerk) has kidnapped their daughter and apparently taken her into the Wyoming mountains. Naomi searches out Hunter Fortune who is reputed to be the best tracker in the region. Despite the pressing demands of his construction company, Hunter is a sucker for a woman in distress, so he agrees to search for the missing child. Naomi insists on going along. Riding tandem on a snowmobile turns out to be an erotic experience for both of them, and by the time the quest has ended . . well, you get the picture.

I am sure that fans of the "Fortune's Children" series will enjoy this anthology. Jackson, Boswell and Turner are all talented authors who have done an acceptable job of crafting stories that fit both the series requirements and the anthology format. But, to tell you the truth, the most intriguing thread was the fate of Kate's secretary Kelly, who has clearly fallen prey to the baddest Fortune, Cousin Chad. However, we'll have to wait for Jennifer Greene's installment in the ongoing Fortune saga to find out what happens.

--Jean Mason

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