Wish You Were Here
by Christie Ridgway
(Avon, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-81255-X
***
Wish You Were Here is the first full-length contemporary romance by the author of several category romances, including Ready, Set...Baby! and The Millionaire and the Pregnant Pauper. I'm sure she's glad to escape from those silly category titles. She hasn't quite escaped from the genre, though -- Wish You Were Here reads much like a slightly longer Silhouette Yours Truly.

Zoe Cash lives a quiet but content life running a bread-and-breakfast on Abrigo Island, off the California coast. She has created a safe slice of paradise for herself and her younger sister, Lyssa, after losing her parents to a car accident and almost losing Lyssa to leukemia. As the self-appointed matchmaker to the island residents, she maintains a vicarious love life -- never mind that every couple she's put together has been torn asunder. Then into her life waltzes Yeager Gates, famous astronaut and Apollo the Sun God lookalike.

Usually a regular in the Society gossip columns, Yeager hasn't been seen in public since a recent motorcycle accident. He has taken up residence on Abrigo Island, along with his friend Deke, to recuperate and hide his temporary blindness from the media. He had been tapped to head up a daring new expedition to the moon, but now he's grounded. Even worse, the former playboy hasn't been -- uh -- affected by a woman in months. When he meets Zoe, his body miraculously comes back to life. Zoe can't believe that this famous hunk could be interested in her, but she knows she is a distraction at best.

That's okay, though, because she doesn't have any intention of leaving the island and returning to the mainland that has brought her so much tragedy. Besides, she has an important task at hand. She's in charge of the annual island festival celebrating the return of the beautiful firetail fish, and she refuses to believe the scientists who warn her that the fish have suddenly abandoned their routine and won't show on schedule.

Meanwhile, Lyssa has set her cap for Deke, despite a twenty-year age difference, and nothing will change her mind. After surviving leukemia, she knows what she wants and doesn't waste time letting Deke know he is her destiny. Deke, however, has no interest in serious relationships especially with a sweet young thing like Lyssa.

I had a few quibbles with the plot and characters, but they were minor. I would have appreciated a different secondary plot -- the older man/younger woman concept always leaves me more disturbed than satisfied. Also, I kept wondering how the temporarily blind Yeager could function so well without an aide or cane. Finally, it was hard to believe he had been an astronaut, since Ridgway gives him absolutely no opportunity to display any of the knowledge or skills that would have accompanied such a role.

The novel features plenty of gentle, occasionally racy humor. Zoe and Yeager's first love scene is particularly cute, as Zoe's naive romantic fantasies confront Yeager's very physical, passionate reality. And the conclusion of the novel is effectively emotional, if predictable. Overall, Wish You Were Here is sweet and enjoyable, but nothing exceptional. Comparisons of this author to Susan Elizabeth Phillips (yes, I've seen them on the Internet) are premature; Christie Ridgway is not in that esteemed author's league yet. But it's good to see another author on the contemporary romance playing field.

--Susan Scribner


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