Sweet Baby by Sharon Sala
(Mira, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-55166-416-X
****
Sweet Baby grabbed my interest from the prologue and didn't let go till the end of the epilogue. Actually, the epilogue let me go; by the end of the book I felt as if I truly knew both the heroine and the hero as friends and I did not want to say good-bye. This story is an emotional roller coaster; it's about a woman trying to remember and deal with a painful past so that she can give the man she loves desperately, and who loves her desperately in return, what he wants most: a future.

Tory Lancaster is photojournalist who has spent the past three years floating in and out of Brett Hooker's life, often leaving their apartment without a word and then coming back to him when she has completed an assignment. Brett doesn't truly understand why he loves Tory; he only knows that he has loved her since the first moment he laid eyes on her. He hates it when she leaves him without a word; Brett fears she will never return. He also fears that Tory will never open herself up to the kind of life, and love, he wants for the both of them.

Tory is reticent and remote around people other than Brett; she doesn't feel comfortable with feelings and emotions. Tory doesn't remember what happened to her when she was just a six-year-old child; she just remembers growing up in successive foster homes where no one ever loved her or wanted her around. No one, that is, until Brett Hooker. Family love and acceptance are natural parts of Brett's life; these are things he wants to share with Tory. But for Tory familial love is something she can't even imagine, much less trust.

After Tory takes a photograph of a crowd scene, she becomes obsessed with a face she sees in the crowd. The face of a tattooed man, a face that starts bringing on frightening dreams, dreams of fear and being alone. As Tory struggles to understand her dreams, Brett's work as an investigator for the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office turns dangerous and Tory realizes how important their love is. Tory decides she must confront her past and her worst nightmares before she loses the only good thing in her life: Brett Hooker.

Terrific character development is what makes this story so good. The author made me understand Tory and how very real her fears were to her. And it wasn't hard to fall for Brett, a strong, loving and very sexy man who is not afraid of showing emotion or love. I very quickly found myself rooting for Tory to confront her fears and her past so she could love Brett the way he deserves to be loved.

Also, I liked the way the author introduced Brett's family, and I hope to see a book on Brett's brother some day. My only complaint about this book is that I thought the ending was just a bit preachy and a bit trite. I also thought there were some loose ends concerning some villains in this tale that should have been wrapped up, but basically I very much enjoyed this well-written, emotionally satisfying story.

Judith Flavell

--Judith Flavell


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