A Younger Woman By Wendy Rosnau
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1074, $4.50, PG) ISBN0-373-27144-1
***
The beginning of this book is a bit problematic, but after becoming acquainted with the characters and watching as the plot begins to unfold, it becomes more credible. Set in New Orleans, the story revolves around Blu, a young fishing fleet owner, his sister Margo, a lounge singer, Detective Ryland Archard and a dedicated criminal who traffics in contraband.

Blu has asked Margo to photograph an exchange, which takes place at night on a pier in the Algiers district of New Orleans. Before the exchange can be completed, the other person is killed by a gunshot out of the dark. Margo runs toward her brother, is shot by the same semi-automatic weapon, jumps into the river and swims a half mile to her brotherís boat. Blu heads the other direction, which creates as a diversion that helps his sister escape.

In the ensuing chaos, and against her better judgment, Margo promises Blu that she will seek safety with her former lover, Ry Archand. So when Ry arrives home later that night he finds her huddled on his bed in his new home in the Garden District.

The person who was shot and killed turns out to be a cop, and Margo does not want her gunshot wound treated at a hospital for fear it will endanger her brother or draw unwanted attention to him from law enforcement. She tries to pretend she was merely mugged, but seasoned detective Ry, who has been assigned to investigate the killing of the cop, knows gun shot wounds better than that.

Margo is 21 and Ry is 12 years older, hence, the title. Two years earlier they had a sizzling month together before he suddenly and unexpectedly informed her it was over. Margo has not recovered emotionally from this and reacts precisely as the reader would expect. Unknown to her, Ry made the choice to end the relationship for her protection since a criminal he had arrested had been methodically killing family members in the precinct where he worked.

There is a certain amount of jousting between them as they jockey for position. Ry wants the truth and Margo wants out of there. He wants her to remain hidden while he unravels the mystery. Meanwhile, a sinister third party wants to recover merchandise he believes Blu has stolen from him and wants Margo, whose face he has become obsessed with.

Although the plot line is a familiar one, the characters make this book work. Margo is talented, perky, mature and hurting. Ry is guilt-ridden, bright and scared. Despite the anguish they are forced to experience, the author demonstrates a lighter touch than most as she develops these characters.

Their romance does not need much rekindling as it had never really faded for either party. This is one of those situations that could have been resolved by talking it out. However, the story comes armed with the logic for not doing so.

Because A Younger Woman is a character driven book taking place in a city that is fun to read about, it is able to survive some of the more knotty practical problems that are raised in the story.

--Thea Davis


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