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Silver Shadows

 
One Texas Night by Sylvie Kurtz
(Harl. Intrigue #527, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-22527-X
**
If you like amnesia stories, One Texas Night may ring your chimes. Grady Sloan's first day as interim police chief in the small Texas town of Fargate isn't going well at all. Angela Peterson has been murdered, stabbed to death inside her home. Grady's only clue is a woman he found cowering behind Angela's woodshed in terror, who claims she can't remember anything. Witness? Or perpetrator?

Grady's not inclined to believe this amnesia thing. But he calls in his sister Desiree, a psychologist, to get her opinion. Desiree thinks the woman is on the up and up, and explains to Grady the various ways in which amnesia can come about. It isn't long before the woman's identity is established. She's Melinda Amery, daughter of a renowned lawyer with whom Grady has an unpleasant background.

Melinda's memory returns quickly, except for what she saw that night. Grady is frustrated, a feeling intensified by his awareness of Melinda's body. He's having lustful thoughts all over the place, even while he tries to get to the bottom of the murder. As far as he's concerned, Melinda is his number one suspect, especially when clues start turning up that point to Melinda as the murderer.

It's hard to insert technical information into a romance without making it seem forced. The author does a nice job here by using Desiree as the courier, explaining to Grady about amnesia. The scenes where Melinda finally tries to piece together what happened brought a faint chill -the sinister undertone was well done.

But the lead characters in this book never worked for me. Take Grady. Here's a guy who wants nothing more than to be the next county sheriff, and what does he do? Gets personally involved with his prime suspect in a murder. His "I know you might have done it but I want you anyway" thinking made him look rather foolish. His focus on the investigation is constantly being interrupted by thoughts of Melinda's breasts, etc.

Melinda is little better. One of her friends has been stabbed to death, and she stubbornly refuses to try and remember what happened that night, lying to Grady over and over about what she actually DOES remember. She's afraid of a "monster", something unnamed from her childhood (though savvy readers will figure it out). Rather than confront her fears, she hides behind them and leaves Grady to flounder. Give me a heroine with some backbone who's mature enough to try and confront her demons. Melinda eventually does so, but it's taken so long and she's had to be prodded so hard (not to mention that most of the book has turned on her refusal to cooperate) that I lost most of my sympathy for her.

Some of Melinda's actions don't even make any sense. On the night of the murder, for example, she was terrified by the thunder and lightning storm going on but felt cooped up in the house, so she went for a walk, in the storm, in the dark, to watch ducks swim on a pond. Huh? If you were terrified of storms, would you go out walking in one? And how many ducks can you see swimming in the dark of night?

Harlequin Intrigue must be one of the toughest lines to write for. It's hard enough to make a category-length romance "sing"; to keep to a similar page count and mix in an interesting mystery while still retaining the believability of the characters and the relationship, well - One Texas Night didn't do it for me. Hope you have better luck.

--Cathy Sova


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