After I Dream

Before I Sleep


A Conard County Reckoning

Cowboy Comes Home

A Fateful Choice

Involuntary Daddy

Mistletoe Kisses


Snow in September

As Sue Civil-Brown: Catching Kelly

Chasing Rainbow

Letting Loose

When I Wake by Rachel Lee
(Warner, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-446-60655-3
When I Wake is the story of archaeologist Veronica Coleridge, a woman on a mission, whose life was shattered a year ago when she was in a bad car accident. She lost her hearing, her unborn baby and, eventually, the husband who couldnít deal with her deafness. She went into such a tailspin that her father (also an archaeologist), in a desperate attempt to renew Veronicaís interest in life, finally reveals to her a secret about her long-dead mother.

Although Veronica has always known that her mother died in a boating accident while doing underwater archaeological excavation off the coast of Florida, she didnít know that her mother had been on an obsessive search for a golden mask at the time. The mask of the Storm Mother is a long-lost religious symbol to an ancient and mysterious culture. It turns out that Veronica and her mother are direct descendants of that culture and that the mask was lost during a sea storm hundreds of years ago.

The plan works and Veronica latches onto the story of the mask and embarks on a mission to try and excavate the wreck of the ship that was carrying the mask when the storm destroyed it. The mission becomes the central focus of her life. The first thing she must do is hire a boat and a diving team: enter Dugan Gallagher, owner of a Key West tour boat and diving business. Dugan is recommended to Veronica by a mutual friend and she hires him to take her on her treasure hunt.

Dugan, a self-professed beach bum who has a very laid back attitude to his business, is a little leery of taking on the assignment, but when he thinks about all the potential charlatans out there who could take advantage of Veronicaís disability, he relents and decides the only way to make sure she isnít taken advantage of is to take the job himself.

When I Wake is a fast, enjoyable read. Dugan and Veronica quickly discover that they have one major thing in common - they both carry a lot of baggage from their past and neither of them wants to get involved with the other. As their search continues and their lives get enmeshed, their attraction to each other becomes harder to deny.

Veronica is an interesting heroine who struggles with bitterness and self-pity, but her imperfections donít make her unlikeable. Instead, sheís touchingly human in her frustration and anger over her disability.

Duganís affable easygoing demeanor is in direct contrast to Veronicaís seriousness. He came to Key West ten years ago to escape lifeís responsibilities. He bought the boat tour business and made it profitable so he could earn a decent living, but beyond that, he doesnít have any interest in getting too involved with other peopleís problems. As the expedition progresses, it becomes apparent that both Veronica and the expedition are going to be a much bigger challenge than heíd ever anticipated. Veronica isnít the only one interested in the mask and mysterious things start to happen.

Thereís enough tension in the plot to keep suspense buffs happy. Lee manages to capture the isolated, almost claustrophobic atmosphere of being on board a boat out in the middle of nowhere for days on end. The suspense builds as steadily as the growing relationship between Dugan and Veronica. Especially for those of us who live in colder climates, When I Wake is a perfect, warm antidote for a winterís day.

--Tina Nigro

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