To the Ends of the Earth by Elizabeth Lowell
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-380-76758-9
****
Elizabeth Lowell's newest release, To the Ends of the Earth was originally published in 1983 as The Danvers Touch. Rewritten by Lowell, what was formerly a 252 page Silhouette Intimate Moments category romance has been expanded to 358 pages. For those of you who may remember it, be assured that as good as that book was, this is a refreshingly new, improved version.

The few flaws I remember in The Danvers Touch have been eliminated, much of the narrative has been converted to dialogue, and this book is far richer for it.

Travis Danvers is multimillionaire by vocation and a ship designer by choice. Able now to indulge his love of the sea in boat design, he is in California trying out his new hull design in a sailing vessel. Paranoid and embittered by a failed marriage in which his wife compounded his hurt by aborting his child, Travis now pays for his pleasures. Knowing every female has a price tag, he generally never moves forward until he has assessed and paid it.

Catherine Cochran was born rich, and married richer far richer even than Travis. Her husband kept score by his number of friends, rather than by balance sheets, and needed Cat only to perpetuate his dynasty. When he learned that her failure to get pregnant is through no fault of his, he lashed out in the most humiliating way possible.

Cat fled the marriage, taking nothing from him, and in the years since has made her name as a brilliant photographer. After her father died and her mother squandered the family fortune, Cat assumed the burden of supporting her and paying for the education of her siblings. The end is finally in sight because the twins are graduating from medical school and her mother is getting remarried.

Being self-employed and supporting four people has taken its toll on Cat. Too many 16-hour days, not enough sleep, and too many skipped meals has sapped her strength and reduced her general health to an all-time low. However, needing money, she accepts an assignment to do the photos for a book about Danvers and his revolutionary boat designs.

The plot is very incidental to the fiery romance that is off and running from the start. In addition to her keen character development and noteworthy dialogue, there are some things about Elizabeth Lowell books that are predictable. Her heroes are generally Class A bastards, and her heroines are loving and vulnerable with lots of integrity. And in no novel is it truer than in this one. In addition, she manages to wring out more emotion in To the Ends of the Earth than usual through insights into the characters' thoughts and through their actions.

There is no easy resolution to the conflict between a man who has to pay and a woman who can't be bought, but Lowell makes it a credible one. This love story may well rank as Lowell's most poignant one.

--Thea Davis


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