White Picket Fences
by Tara Taylor Quinn
(Harl. Super. #954, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-70954-4
The title of this book, along with the series name, “Shelter Valley Stories,” lulls you into thinking you are going to be reading some cozy little small town tale. Well, that is and isn’t so. Mostly it isn’t. This story has a couple with some problems readers can identify with and at least one problem that some readers might find difficult to accept.

Miranda “Randi” Parsons has a good life - friends, family, and a job she loves. As you get to know her, though, you realize she has battled to find contentment and could easily feel sorry for herself. She was a star athlete who can no longer compete and, though she has many wonderful things, she has isolated herself from love. She isn’t whining about it, though. When she realizes something is missing in her life, she decides to take on new projects - one of which is putting up a white picket fence for her home. What she has to do, of course, is realize a fence isn’t what she needs to make her lovely house the home she wants.

Then Zack Foster arrives in her life. She is forced to get to know him, though she isn’t fond of animals, because he is the new veterinarian in town and she is the college professor in charge of the students’ pet therapy project. He is anxious to prove to her that she is wrong about the benefits of pets. But Zack isn’t anxious to change anyone’s mind about long-term, lasting love. He had what he thought was going to be that kind of love with his wife. She is now his ex-wife and the reason for that is so painful to Zack that he is sure he is never going to try any kind of commitment again.

Randi and Zack are strong-willed and intensely attracted to each other. When both of them are finally able to admit they might want to go further than a quick sexual fling, Randi discovers the source of Zack’s disillusionment: Zack’s wife left him for another woman. Zack can’t seem to get past the thought that he thought everything was wonderful until his wife sprang the news on him. To make things worse, the two discover the “other woman” is one of Randi’s dearest friends.

Zack’s ex-wife and her new love are depicted sympathetically, but the pain her decision causes is neither sensationalized nor trivialized.. Zack has to accept he couldn’t stop his marital breakup and to understand why his ex-wife chose the person she did. Since Zack has rejected any thought of trying to understand or accept what happened - he even thinks he wouldn’t be able to care for Randi because she was an athlete like his wife’s lover - he has a long, painful struggle before he changes his mind. Of course he can’t truly turn to Randi until he is able to let go what happened in the past. How he does that makes the ending turn out both happily and fairly realistically.

--Irene Williams

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