Heartbeats by Susan Rae
(Berkley, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-452-20682-3
Cardiovascular surgeon Elizabeth Iverson, is giving a speech at her alumni fundraiser when her worst nightmare or best dream shows up unexpectedly. Drake McGuire is the father of her young daughter Allison, conceived after an unexpected out of town weekend fling over five years ago. She has not seen him since that weekend nor has she told him he has a child.

Drake is an FBI Special Agent living a dangerous high-risk job, and Elizabeth, unwilling to face these risks daily, fled Atlanta, returned to Chicago to start and finish medical school, and to raise her child as a single mother. She is presently employed in a Cardiac Care and Prevention Center that caters to the very wealthy, offering luxury accommodations and plenty of pampering.

Drake confronts Elizabeth after her speech, and she manages to act composed but leaves as quickly as possible to return to her apartment. Her college roommate Julie had been visiting her while trying to work out the financial arrangements of her third divorce. Elizabeth walks into the apartment to find Julie dead of multiple stab wounds. Fortunately, Allison was out of town with her grandmother that weekend.

Drake, feeling he had handled the confrontation poorly, finds Elizabeth’s address and shows up hoping to have a better resolution of old memories. He arrives in time to see the police and enters with them. Drake is well connected with the Chicago Police Department as many of his cousins hold positions there.

Realizing that Julie’s murder was not random, Drake believes that Elizabeth was the target. He becomes her bodyguard. Another attempt on her life substantiates his fears, and he becomes more proactive in trying to solve the case.

There is sufficient foreshadowing for readers to quickly figure out the plot. And if not quickly, there is plenty of time throughout the middle of the book to do so. The story suffers from a sagging middle, where the reader is plodding through the proverbial angst of the protagonists, when suddenly the story blasts off to a very speedy if not too credible resolution.

The principal characters are well drawn and their point of view is clear. However, the secondary characters are not so well drawn and it is disconcerting when some end up with major roles.

Susan Rae is certainly to be credited with having done a lot of research; the great benefit of Heartbeats is that the reader should begin to grasp the concept of heart disease prevention. If this book contributes nothing else to your life, the subliminal message to lose weight and quit smoking should be heeded.

--Thea Davis

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