As Eileen Dreyer

Brain Dead

Sail Away by Kathleen Korbel
(Silh. Desire #1254, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-76254-2
It's been a long time since a new Kathleen Korbel category has been in the book stores. If you've never read A Rose for Maggie, with its perfect blend of pathos and compassion, Ice Cream Man, a wonderfully complex and intelligent plot or Jake's Way, a heartwarming story of total unselfishness, then you've missed some of the best category books around. Sail Away is a fun read, but it's not even in the same league as the three I mentioned.

While Sail Away may have been eagerly awaited by her many fans, I don't think it will have the same staying power as some of her others.

Lilly Kokoa is sailing from Molokai to Oahu when she discovers a life raft adrift on the ocean, complete with a gorgeous man, clad in a tux and a Stetson. She immediately recognizes him as Cameron Ross, the most recognizable and famous movie star around. Picture an amalgam of Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise and Sean Connery, and you've got Cameron Ross.

Unlike Lilly, we know from the prologue that this man isn't Cameron Ross, but a look-alike cousin of the famous movie star, whose looks so resemble the star that one of his jobs is to serve as a decoy, leading the paparazzi astray. Our hero is actually Ethan Campbell, who has just thwarted a kidnapping attempt. He escaped from his kidnappers and has just been floating in the Pacific. During the escape, he was shot and sustained such a head injury that he doesn't know who he is or that he's in serious trouble. He's also lost his glasses and sees everything in a technicolor blur.

Lilly, a plain-Jane sort of woman, supports herself with an interesting combination of jobs: she's a reference librarian and a Hawaiian dancer. Racing to get ‘Cameron' much needed medical help, she flags down a yacht . . . only to discover that the kidnappers are manning it. Now they have ‘Cameron' and Lilly as hostages.

Sail Away is almost a fruit cocktail sort of book. I like fruit cocktail but sometimes it's hard to recognize the fruit or appreciate the distinct tastes. The story seems to be trying to do too many things at once. There's the suspense thread. Who's the mastermind behind the kidnapping? A mystery surrounds Ethan. Why is it so important that he remember where he was headed before the kidnapping? Lilly's Hawaiian roots are brought into the story, but with too little detail. The issue of her self-confidence could have been given more careful examination, but is too sketchy to be significant. There's humor -- sorta -- every time the kidnappers appear. They're the literary version of Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest.

I wish I could squash the realistic side of me when I read. Here's Ethan with several bullet holes in him, he's climbed a mountain for what seems to be eighty hours, has a severe head injury and is in serious need of medical attention and yet manages to make love to Lilly for hours on end. Come on, folks. Lilly's mantra as she coaxes Ethan to make the climb to her family's remote home is that she'll use the radio to contact help. But making love interferes with that need.

Ethan is a fine example of a Romance Hero and Lilly, his match, is a far cry from the stereotyped beauty. This is one time that love is blind to all but inner beauty, a goodness that radiates from Lilly like sunshine.

Sail Away, for all its shortcomings, is a fun book which doesn't seem to take itself too seriously. That's a good thing. I liked it, but I can't take it too seriously, either.

--Linda Mowery

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