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Love Me True by Ann Major
(Silh. Desire #1213, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-76213-5
One-heart books are something that we all dread. Nobody likes to say "Don't Bother" with a story. However, when a book offers characters who claim to love each other and yet behave so abominably, so cruelly to each other, then this ceases to be my idea of a romance and becomes an exercise in frustration.

Love Me True has serious problems. The heroine and hero behave childishly, are rude and even malicious to each other. They're far from a romantic couple, considering that divorce papers are served with only twenty pages to go. At twenty-six, they're at the top of their respective professions, but their achievements aren't likely or plausible. Bits of their history are interspersed with the present, often without a clear delineation. Finally, a mystery is thrown in without warning, one that adds minimal interest to the story and is laughable in its resolution.

In the prologue, we meet twenty-year-old wrong-side-of-the-tracks Joey Fasano. He's at the hospital, desperate to see his girlfriend, Heather Wade. Joey is told that she's miscarried, but still wants to marry her. There's viciously bad blood between Joey and Heather's father, Senator Travis Wade. Our first glimpse of the blustery senator shows him ordering Joey from the hospital room. "You better leave quick, boy, before I decide to use my considerable power to break you."

Fast forward approximately six years. Heather is about to marry her daddy's handpicked man, a closet cretin. Joey's done all right for himself. He's just won the Oscar for best actor. In front of millions of people, Joey thanks Heather for being the only one to believe in him. He then chokes up and bolts from the stage. Two things make this incident darkly memorable. We learn throughout that Joey is almost a Sly Stallone clone, only accepting tough guy, high testosterone parts, roles that are rarely Oscar material. Also, right before Joey's name is called out, the presenter says, "And the winner is . . . " No...no...no, it hasn't been done like that for years. The current way is to say, "And the Oscar goes to . . . "

Here's how we're supposed to view twenty-six-year-old Heather. She "was beautiful, rich, and envied by all. She was high society. Big rich. Texas royalty." The Senator has even given her a trust fund so that she'll never, ever, ever have to worry about money. As a professional photographer she's already won a Pulitzer Prize and has retired.

These people are superhuman, double duty role models . . . who from page one behave childishly, theatrically, selfishly and are self-centered immature brats.

What brings Heather and Joey together is five-year-old Nicky, a little boy who resembles Joey. Even though Joey's an Oscar winning actor, he can't get in to see Heather at the Senator's home. He crashes a party just in time to rescue Heather from being sexually assaulted by her fiancÚ, who's drugged her to make her more amenable. Joey and Heather, who remembers very little about the fiancÚ's attack, are discovered the next day by the Senator and the dastardly fiancÚ. Humiliated, Heather lashes out at Joey. "You are trash. Just like Daddy says. You want to degrade me. You want to ruin him."

When Joey demands to know who Nicky is, he can't get a straight answer. Threatening Heather, he claims that he'll go to the press and ruin the Senator if she doesn't marry him. Heather's wedding to the cretin proceeds, with one small difference. Joey is now the groom. For the rest of the wedding and reception, Heather continues to make snide comments about Joey, even telling Nicky that she's got nothing to celebrate.

Now, to the mystery that really isn't. Heather won her Pulitzer Prize because she took what she thought was a wonderful picture of a father and son, but turned out to be a kidnapper and his young victim. Through her photo, the kidnapper was caught and jailed.

The kidnapper reappears, calling Heather on her wedding night. He's escaped from prison and is boasting that he's going to find Nicky and use a hammer to break every bone in the young boy's body. How did he know where she was staying? How his call was put through the switchboard is another mystery. Where's Joey? Pouting in the bar. As a matter of fact, he's still pouting and threatening divorce with only twenty pages of the story left.

Why did this couple treat each other so shabbily? Heather sulks and tells Joey he deserves to be unhappy. She's not proud that he's an award winning actor and frets because other women admire him. Something I found odd is that she can't handle the press, yet is a senator's daughter. At the wedding she snidely calls Joey a tabloid stud-king. Joey makes crude sexual comments to her, telling her that the only place she pleases him is in bed. Reconciliation attempts last for less than a day. Nicky, the five-year-old question mark, is never a factor in their relationship.

Sadly, Love Me True is a romantic mixture of extremes, exaggerations and ego.

--Linda Mowery

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