The No-Nonsense Nanny

The Ranger &
the Schoolmarm

Laraís Lover by Penny Richards
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1366, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-24366-9
Lara Grayson and Donovan Delaney had been secret high school lovers when things ended badly for them. Very badly. After Donovan was imprisoned for his abusive fatherís death, Lara tried to talk to him and he sent her away. What he didnít know was that Lara wanted to tell him she was pregnant.

Now both Lara - Lara Hardisty now - and Donovan are back in their same small hometown. Lara is divorced, has a child and is the high school principal. Donovan is a landscaper with a good reputation for his work. What are they going to do about their long-smoldering mutual attraction this time?

Well, they do about the same old thing. I like Donovan, who is a diamond in the rough type, and I could deal with Lara, who seems more like a stick-in-the-mud type. She seems to have learned very little from her past experiences or, to be fair, she learns very slowly.

The hero and heroine do have good romantic chemistry but outside of that they didnít do much for me. Thatís probably because Donovan and Lara do a lot of rehashing with only marginally more maturity than the high school couple they used to be. Now this may also be true in real life, this is a romance. I want to see more insights, growth and change after seventeen years.

The other characters in the story are more interesting. Unfortunately, that is both a strength and weakness here. I kept getting sidetracked over who had done what to whom and how one person was related to someone else. Secret pregnancies, secret courtships, and, not surprisingly, tons of misunderstandings abound. I like complicated novels but this length story canít handle more than maybe one subplot. Since it is the middle of a trilogy there are - guess what! - at least two subplots, maybe three, to untangle. I became more interested in Wes, the recovering alcoholic, and his mysterious Justine than the current story. To be honest, all of the subplots sounded more interesting than the main plot. I was even intrigued by the very sketchy subplot of the current-day teenagers who are deciding if they will stay a couple.

Past and present events mirror each other in the book. Donovan gets arrested again and Lara hesitates to give him an alibi. (He was, of course, making love to her rather than committing a crime.) While I understand her fears for her reputation and job, I think not telling the police is cowardly. Her teenage daughter (who is NOT Donovanís, by the way) has to point out to Lara that she is doing the wrong thing. Even when Lara does come forward, itís a little less than wholehearted support. Of course she does eventually do the right thing and she is willing to risk her reputation and job to help him out. While Donovan forgives her, Iím not sure I want to. That should be a starting point for her to show she has learned from the past, not the conclusion.

--Irene Williams

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