Awakened by His Kiss
by Judith Lyons
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1296, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24296-4
Awakened by His Kiss has two lead characters who are larger than life. In fact, they're so exaggerated, with saintlike virtues and horrendous problems that they never seem close to being realistic. My hallmark of a good romance is that I'd like to step into the lead character's shoes. Not here. I wouldn't even want to know these excessively good/overly shattered people.

Gaby Richards is moving to Montana, where she hopes to find the peace and solitude that she desperately needs to heal, both physically and emotionally. Physically she's a mess. Her brother-in-law beat her up badly, but she feels vindicated. He's now in jail for the murder of Gaby's sister. Emotionally, she's a cripple. As an abused child, she learned to be fearful of men, and now she's obsessive about avoiding them.

Luke Anderson resents Gaby the minute he sees her. He condemns her for being the little rich girl who's bought part of his family's ranch. Without any evidence, Luke puts Gaby in the same category as his ex-wife, and takes out his still smoldering anger on her. He's so hostile that Gaby is immediately wary of him. Even a woman without her past would give this man a wide berth. His anger and antagonism seem misplaced considering that he's been divorced for five years.

Slowly Luke realizes that he's misjudged Gaby. As he learns about her past, he develops a grudging respect for her resilience. And her occupation almost elevates her to sainthood. Gaby is a top-notch rescuer, fast becoming a legend. A year ago, she was the only rescuer who refused to give up the search for a missing child in a nearby Montana forest fire.

Gaby also rescues abandoned and abused animals and has unlimited patience as she teaches them to trust humans again. In one discordant scene Luke mentions that one of her horses has a problem with his bite, and needs his teeth floated, a term that's never defined. Gaby explains that the horse has a problem with eating because a previous trainer cut out its tongue. I had to ask myself if that information really moved the story along or was added for shock value and to show us what a saint Gaby was.

Luke begins to fill in missing gaps about Gaby's past. Not only is Gaby a virgin, but she's never been kissed. He knows that he doesn't want a committed relationship. After all, he'll be leaving in a few weeks to return to his job. His occupation is sort of nebulous but he's a do-gooder who works for a foundation that goes to third world countries and war-torn areas. He decides that he'll be the one to introduce this fragile woman to the joys of sex. So what that he'll be leaving her to fly off for parts unknown.

Luke is basically a care-giver but his techniques p!ssed me off. When he discovers Gaby using a power saw, rather than give her advice on its proper use and the need for safety equipment, he throws the $800 saw into the lake. And later, it was unclear what the author was trying to accomplish when Gaby is so incompetent with her second new saw that she ends up being pinned under a tree, almost dying from hypothermia.

Gaby and Luke are too good to be real people. Their virtues are magnified and overdone. If a sad past, a past wrought with strife is considered to be excess baggage, then these people travel with Gucci luggage. I didn't admire them, I didn't believe that Gaby's past could be so easily overcome, I didn't like how Gaby equated sexual fulfillment with losing control of her life and I didn't believe the easy resolution, with no mention of Luke's job.

If stories are said to be neatly wrapped up in a bow, then Awakened by His Kiss was too ragged, about to come undone.

--Linda Mowery

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