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Some Enchanted Season
by Marilyn Pappano
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-57982-7
The same day I started to read Some Enchanted Season I received a letter from a friend relating an unanticipated tragedy so incredibly sad I just kept shaking my head, caught between denial and acceptance. Of course, fiction is not to be confused with reality, but human tragedies are grist for the romantic writer's mill, and reading the first few pages of Marilyn Pappano's new book caused a similar gut-wrenching reaction. Nearly every page of this book affected me strongly, and soon after beginning Some Enchanted Season, I knew it would find its way to my "keeper" shelf.

Ross and Maggie McKinney are spending two or three months from late November through January together at home in Bethlehem, New York. Normal enough for a married couple, but this is her home, not his, and by mutual agreement they plan to divorce at the end of this hiatus between her release from a rehabilitation center and her living on her own. On Christmas Eve a year ago Maggie fled this beloved new home, driving into a potentially deadly snowstorm.

Maggie's vehicle slid off a slippery road and tumbled into a ravine. She survived the accident barely. Seeing her battered body, Ross could recognize only her emerald earrings, a gift from him during a happier time in their marriage. After many operations and months in a rehabilitation facility, Maggie is finally ready to go home but needs to have a close friend or relative monitoring her ability to live independently.

At the beginning of this story, Maggie cannot remember events during the months just prior to the accident. She has no memory of the house she bought and renovated, the friends she made in Bethlehem, nor the event which triggered her flight from home. Her doctors are unsure whether the memory loss is symptomatic of post-traumatic stress disorder or permanent brain damage. What Maggie does remember clearly is the four to five years of a dying marriage which preceded her deciding to find and renovate a home far from Buffalo and Ross, his detested mansion, his superficial friends and business associates. Maggie and Ross plan to divorce as soon as this period of adjustment ends, but they tell no one except Ross's lawyer and Maggie's doctors.

Maggie's doctors believe Ross should monitor her period of adaptation. Ross is so burdened with guilt, he agrees to entrust his multi-million dollar company to his attorney and a female executive assistant. As Ross and Maggie reach out tentatively to each other, he hopes his wife never recovers her memory fully, fearing he will lose her all over again. Keeping pace with his growing need for Maggie is her returning memory, a source of tension in their relationship.

For this book, Pappano has returned to the setting of Season for Miracles. A mix of Victorian houses and fifties Levittown-style suburban wannabes, Bethlehem is a charming small town, just far enough from Buffalo to preclude commuting, preserving many admirable qualities of small-town USA. Nathan Bishop and his wife, Emilie, characters in last year's Season for Miracles, are Maggie McKinney's neighbors, as are the endearing Winchester sisters, mainstays from the town's founding family. While the friends and neighbors portrayed are supportive and comforting, they are not saccharine; they are drawn quite realistically.

Unlike most real-life scenarios, in romantic fiction, tragedy can inspire and victims can heal in the span of a few weeks. Marilyn Pappano's title, Some Enchanted Season, is a clue that the tragic circumstances described at the beginning of this book will not cloud the entire story. This is a tale of the healing power of life in small-town USA, especially friends, neighbors and family. While this book does not have the dark, edgy quality of Pappano's well-known romantic suspense stories, Some Enchanted Season is romantic fiction at its very best.

--Sue Klock

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