Her Galahad by Melissa James
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1182, $4.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-27252-9
First time Silhouette author Melissa James packs an emotional wallop with a plot that is unusual enough to hold the interest of the most seasoned suspense fan She will have her readers long remembering not only her characters but also the Australia she obviously loves.

Tessa Earldon, only daughter of Queen’s Counsel Keith Earldon, fell in love and married an aboriginal carpenter. Her father immediately disowned her, but undaunted, she waited in vain for David Oliveri to come claim her. Instead, her brother showed up with a death certificate for David. Within the month she discovered she was pregnant. Weakened by grief and the pressure of her father and brother to save their financial empire by marrying Cameron Beller, she relented and did so.

Told that her child was stillborn and after suffering three years of physical and mental abuse from Cameron, Tessa fled to rural Australia, teaching in one village school after another and always mindful that her obsessive husband was in hot pursuit.

Meanwhile David is very much alive and had served a prison sentence for allegedly robbing and assaulting Cameron. Upon his release, his attorney handed him documents that contained, among other things, a consent for adoption signed by Tessa for their child. Enraged David, now known as Jirrah, spent the following years carefully nurturing his hatred of Tessa.

He is alarmed when someone appears in his village looking for Tessa. In spite of his carefully cultured hatred, since he knows where she is, he travels there to make certain she is safe. He and Tessa collide as Cameron closes in her, and they flee together.

A less skilled writer would have spent the next hundred pages with tons of inner dialogue agonizing over the cruel caprice of fate, and reveling in their mutual distrust; however, this author powerfully and carefully demonstrates their feelings the hard way, by actions and reactions.

Tessa and Jirrah eventually start with a tentative truce in their joint search for their daughter. Jirrah knows finding their child will forever destroy any chance of a relationship since it will prove the culpability of her father and brother, Then there is the emotionally frozen Tessa who only gradually thaws. If these problems are not sufficient, there is the mixed race issue that is subtly in the background.

Beautiful dialogue, complex plots and subplots, exquisitely described settings that shift seamlessly around deftly developed characters are generally the trademarks of experienced authors. Remember the name Melissa James, you will be reading her again.

--Thea Davis

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