3, 2, 1...Married

Chance McCall

Deep in the Heart

Finders Keepers

Mission Irresistible

Remember Me

Reunion

Roman's Heart

Royal's Child

Ryder's Wife

Second Chances

Sweet Baby

As Dinah McCall:

Chase the Moon

Dreamcatcher

Jackson Rule

Legend

The Return

Tallchief

 
Butterfly by Sharon Sala
(Mira, $6.50, PG) ISBN 1-55166-616-2
***
For those of you who like your romance novels laced with rescue fantasies, Butterfly will not disappoint. Sharon Sala's latest contemporary gives us a near-perfect hero, a near-perfect, but down-on-her-luck heroine, and a murder mystery. It's compulsively readable but eminently forgettable, with only a surprise ending to distinguish it from scores of similar novels.

China Brown thinks she's hit rock bottom. The father of her unborn child has skipped town with all of their money, and she has just been evicted by her heartless landlord while snow starts to fall in Dallas. But things only get worse: while trying to find a church mission, China finds herself the only witness to a cold-blooded murder. The killer shoots her as well, ending the new life within her, and leaving China in critical condition.

Homicide detective Ben English takes the case and discovers that the primary victim was a celebrity photographer with enough dirt on Dallas' rich and famous to have hundreds of enemies. Duty compels Ben to find this man's killer. But with one look at the unconscious China, Ben's desire to catch the murderer escalates, and he vows to avenge this beautiful, unfortunate woman. Before China even wakes up, Ben is more than halfway in love with her, and his feelings only intensify when she recovers. But there are a few problems standing in their way - as a witness to an unsolved murder, China is still very much in danger. Even more problematic is the fact that China, a formerly abused child, doesn't believe herself worthy of Ben's love.

Butterfly is mostly sugar, with a little bit of spice. The spice derives from glimpses the reader sees of several individuals who may or may not be prime suspects in the murder case. These dubious persons include a Texas Senator who wants to be President at any cost, and his notorious mother, who has never lost her white trash roots. There's enough adultery, hypocrisy and other shenanigans to let the reader know that this is modern romantic suspense. But the relationship between China and Ben is pure saccharine. China may be poor and pregnant, but she's sweet and gentle, with insecurity her only failing. Ben is the white knight who holds her hand throughout her hospitalization, finds a place for her to live when she is discharged, and fights bad guys for her so they can live happily ever after. Not that there's anything wrong with that...but given the book's title, I expected more than passivity from China as she emerges from her "cocoon." I wanted to see her kick some butt, stand up for herself, do something. But no, her major victory comes at the end of the book, when Ben tells her that she's beautiful, and she finally believes him. Uh, you go, girl...?

Even with these problems, Sharon Sala knows how to hook a reader. I finished Butterfly in less than 24 hours, and although the romance was disappointing, the identity of the killer was cleverly disguised. But if I'm reading contemporary romantic suspense, I want a modern heroine who has a little more oomph to her character than this delicate China.

--Susan Scribner


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