has also reviewed:

Justice Way Series:

Roman's Heart
Ryder's Wife

As Sharon Sala:

Chance McCall
Deep in the Heart
Finders Keepers
Second Chances
Sweet Baby

As Dinah McCall:

Chase the Moon
Jackson Rule

Royal's Child by Sharon Sala
(Silh. Int. Mom. #913, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-07913-3
Sharon Sala has brought her saga of the Justice family to a fine close in Royal's Child, the story of the oldest Justice son, the one who stayed on the ranch. If nothing else, this three book series has demonstrated the extent of the author's imagination, for each of the books was very different. Ryder's Wife was a modern marriage of convenience story. Roman's Heart gave the old faithful amnesia plot a nice twist. Royal's Child takes us into the world of guardian angels.

The child involved is four, almost five, year-old Maddie, a precocious but nevertheless sweet little girl. Royal has been a single parent since his wife died bearing his daughter. His devotion, and that of her uncles, to Maddie is a delight to see, but as she grows older, the complications mount.

At the beginning of the story, Maddie is bitten by a fiddleback spider, a potentially fatal bite. As Royal rushes the delirious girl to the hospital, she keeps moaning that she can't find her angel. Maddie survives the ordeal, but she is not quite the buoyant, happy little girl she once was. She keeps asking for the angel that the lady in blue promised her.

One night, as the two are driving back to the ranch in a rainstorm, they see a figure trudging along the road. Maddie screams for her father to stop, that it's her angel. A startled Royal does just that and reluctantly offers the hitchhiker a ride. And, what do you know? It is an angel; Angel Rojas, to be exact.

Angel Rojas has been on the road most of her life. After her mother died, she was left with an abusive father, shuttled into foster homes, and, since her sixteenth birthday, has been supporting herself at one job after another. She left her last job after putting her harassing boss on the floor. She has been making her way southwestward, trying to find a place that she can call home.

Although she doesn't know it, Angel has had a very close call. Tommy Boy Watson had seen her at a truck stop and had concluded that she was a prostitute, just like the one who gave his daddy AIDS. Tommy Boy is on a mission of revenge; he intends to eliminate as many of those carriers of death as he can. In fact, Tommy Boy was on the same road when Royal picked up Angel.

You can imagine Maddie's delight when she discovers that her chance met hitchhiker really is an angel. Royal, hoping to recover the fun-loving Maddie, agrees to hire Angel as his housekeeper. For her part, Angel accepts the job, hoping against hope that perhaps she might at last have found a home.

The romance between Royal and Angel develops slowly. Angel has no reason to trust men. Angel soon comes to love Maddie and to dream of becoming a permanent part of her life. But she can't believe that anything good will happen to her. Royal thought he buried his heart with his wife. He is actually the last one to recognize that he has fallen in love with his beautiful housekeeper.

In addition to the romance, Sala provides a pervasive element of danger and suspense. Angel realizes that she has seen the serial killer who is murdering woman, and the killer realizes that she can identify him.

The romance in Royal's Child is delightful, but what really impressed me was the aura of menace Sala managed to create as she shifts between the sunny life at the Justice ranch and the twisted darkness of Tommy Boy's mind.

I am a big fan of Sharon Sala/Dinah McCall and I certainly have not been disappointed in any of her "Justice Way" books. If Ryder's Wife remains my favorite (OK, I'm a sucker for marriage of convenience stories), Royal's Child is a close second. I am going to miss those Justice boys.

--Jean Mason

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