Chances by Pamela Leigh Starr
(Genesis Press, $8.95, PG-13) ISBN 1-58571-029-6
Monica Lewis Brown was introduced in the opening of Pamela Leigh Starr's debut novel, Fate as the widowed older sister of that novel’s heroine, Vanessa Lewis Halloway. Her late husband was her friend, confidante and high school sweetheart. Although her family and friends are concerned that she is shutting herself off from male companionship, she cites her responsibilities and shrugs them all off.

In the years following her husband’s death, Monica has focused all her attention on her three children, her job as a school speech therapist and her part-time job at a health spa. Monica is doing quite well - thank you very much - until her life is bugged.

Forget about Raymond. Everybody loves “Bug.”

At least it seems that way to Monica. Imagine her chagrin when the dangerously attractive man she has been noticing on the sly on the streets of New Orleans and at the spa turns out to be her her brother-in-law’s college buddy and best friend, Devin “Bug” Preston. In a short time, he has become her father and brothers’ new fishing buddy and he has captivated her children. Is there nowhere she can go to get away from this man? Apparently not. Things between the two of them really hit the fan when Monica discovers that the new neighbor who’s been bugging her with loud music, a menacing dog and misplaced garbage cans is none other than Bug Preston.

Chances is a worthy successor to Pamela Leigh Starr=s debut novel, Fate. While the author has given her second novel a one-word title, this heartwarming story will be affectionately known to me as “Brown Eyes and the Bug.” Starr could have played it safe by creating a predictable love-your-enemy story, but she did not. Chances is a heartwarming and often funny second chance romance.

The heat between the two characters is almost as hot as the New Orleans climate. Monica is attracted to Devin, but has conflicted feelings about betraying the memory of her late husband, Keith. Devin will not be denied and pursues her ardently. He chases her until she catches him. Their scenes together are often poignant as Monica struggles to come to grips with her growing attraction to Devin.

The novel begins with a rather disjointed opening chapter before it settles down and establishes its pace. There were also a few mechanical flaws in the uncorrected proofs I read that, hopefully, will be cleared away in the final version.

As in Fate, the main characters are surrounded by a loving and supportive cast of characters that include the large and loving Lewis family. Chances is a sequel to Fate in that much of the action of the second novel revolves around the characters in the first. Pamela Leigh Starr gets the job done without overshadowing the Monica-Devin story. Readers are treated to an update on the events in Scott and Vanessa Halloway’s lives. Included in the secondary characters are Scott’s racist co-worker T.J. and Devin’s mother. T.J. makes his presence known through his actions, while Mrs. Preston’s unseen, long distance responses of “I see . . . “ speak volumes.

There are a few unresolved issues in Chances that I’m hoping indicate additional visits with the Lewis family and their friends. After all, there are enough unattached family members who are begging to have their own stories.

As I mentioned earlier, Chances is a worthy successor to Fate. Although each book is a stand alone, I recommend them both. Pamela Leigh Starr’s work has earned her a spot on my Emerging Author’s List.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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