Absolutely, Positively

Deep Waters

Eclipse Bay

Eye of the Beholder

Flash

Lost and Found

Sharp Edges

Soft Focus

As Amanda Quick:

Affair

I Thee Wed

Mischief

Mystique

Wicked Widow

With This Ring

 
Dawn In Eclipse Bay by Jayne Ann Krentz
(Jove, $7.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-13092-3
****
The practical, no-nonsense Hartes and the passionate, tempestuous Madisons are back again, though this time the story concentrates on the romance brewing between the eldest Madison grandson Gabe and the eldest Harte granddaughter Lillian. This second "stands alone" book in the three book series is a page-turner from start to finish.

The three-generation feud between the Madison and the Harte families first began when their respective patriarchs came to blows over a woman. Both men thought themselves in love with Claudia Banner, a whirlwind of a redhead who took them both for fools and absconded with all the money they had made in their joint business venture of Harte-Madison. After Sullivan Harte and Mitchell Madison went from being best friends to bitter enemies, it became implicitly and explicitly understood that Hartes and Madisons were not to mix. This understanding was maintained for over forty years until Rafe Madison and Hannah Harte (Eclipse Bay) fell in love and married.

Fresh from his younger brother's wedding, Gabe Madison has decided that he needs a wife. The eldest Madison grandson and the man that pulled his family out of financial ruin and into the upper echelons of society, he is a calculating businessman who knows how to get what he wants. Gabe looks at marriage as he does any business venture, so he goes about obtaining a wife in the most sensible fashion he can think of: he hires Lillian Harte to find one for him with the stipulation that she is to steer him clear of any "arty" types.

The problem for Gabe is that he isn't attracted to any of the high maintenance, go-getter women Lillian sets him up with. His arranged dates might be beautiful and highly successful just as he specified they must be, but the one woman he can't stop thinking about is the matchmaker herself..

Lillian Harte's computerized matchmaking company Private Arrangements boasts an elite clientele and has a high rate of success. Nevertheless, she is ready to call it quits so she can devote herself full time to her dream of becoming an artist. Lillian agrees to take Gabe on as her last client, but quickly begins to regret her decision when she realizes that the Madisons' eldest brooding grandson isn't going to be happy with any of the women he meets.

Determined to close the doors once and for all on Private Arrangements and pursue her artistic goals, Lillian refuses to send Gabe out on any more disastrous dates, offering instead to refund his money as a solace. Much to her chagrin, the shark of a businessman doesn't want his money back. Instead Gabe wants his final date...and he wants it with Lillian.

Just when I was beginning to fear that I'd been forever sentenced to two and three heart hell by the omnipotent TRR goddess, she slipped this beauty of a book into my last reviewer package. JAK's latest is everything you've come to expect from her in a novel: fun, adorable, heartwarming, and amusing. If you liked Eclipse Bay, you will love its successor.

There are many aspects of Dawn In Eclipse Bay to recommend it, but as usual it's Krentz's ability to craft two winning protagonists that makes the novel a must-read. The one thing I have long loved about JAK is that she knows how to create sizzle and tension between her heroes and heroines without trying to achieve it via the employment of tired misunderstanding and miscommunication scenarios. This ability among others has made her a true master of her craft, earning her legions of devout fans and consistent placement on the New York Times Bestseller List. Her latest novel is no exception.

Equally endearing to the reader is the supporting cast of Dawn In Eclipse Bay. Not only do we get to know Sullivan and Mitchell better (the two men who began the infamous Harte-Madison feud), but we are also treated to a resurrection of Arizona Snow, the elderly conspiracy theorist introduced in book one who walks around in battle fatigues and believes that everything going on around her is a government cover-up. Arizona's latest conspiracy theory provides quite a few "giggle moments" throughout the read.

The only complaint I have with the book as a whole, and it's a relatively minor one, is that I would have liked to see the quirky "artsy" side of Lillian's nature developed a bit more fully in contrast to Gabe's pragmatic, calculating, business side. Some of JAK's best one-liners have been the result of highlighting the amusing differences between her protagonists, so this reader is at her happiest when Krentz pens such a plot device to its crescendo.

That one criticism aside, Dawn In Eclipse Bay is a highly entertaining read that kept my fingers anxiously turning the pages long past the time when I should have retired for the night. Gabe is hilarious, Lillian is lovable, and the secondary cast is phenomenal.

The final book in the trilogy will revolve around Nick Harte, Lillian and Hannah's brother, and a woman whose identity I won't give away so as not to ruin the surprise for readers. Needless to say, by the time you finish Dawn In Eclipse Bay you will be itching to read the next installment. Krentz proves once again that nobody does it quite like she does.

--Tina Engler


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