Almost an Angel

Another Dawn

Some Like It Hotter

A Willing Spirit

A Matter of Trust by Deb Stover
(Zebra Bouquet #32, $3.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-821-76460-8
Somebody over at Kensington must love the "separated teenage lovers" plot. The three Bouquets I've read this month all had a hero and heroine who broke up ten years earlier, at age 18, and are now meeting up again. In A Matter of Trust, it's newly-minted physician Taylor Bowen, returning to her small hometown in Colorado on a three-year assignment, and veterinarian Gordon Lane, her long-ago love. They meet when Taylor takes a wrong turn and ends up in Gordon's driveway, just as he is emerging from a dip in the creek to find his clothing stolen by a bear. His boxer shorts turn out to be full of fire ants, leading to howls of pain by Gordon and a rescue of sorts by Taylor.

Neither of them is comfortable seeing the other again, let alone working together in the close confines of the only available medical facility -- Gordon's clinic. Both remember how much they meant to one another. But Taylor remembers Gordon's betrayal, and Gordon remembers Taylor's abandonment. They have lustful thoughts, mixed with dark thoughts, mixed with defiance. Will they ever know the truth about what happened?

More to the point, will the reader? I began to wonder. The author does a fine job of relating Taylor and Gordon's past history, with several tender and effective flashback scenes. Their love for one another, unlike other "teenage lovers" stories, is never is doubt -- it seems mature and well-founded. Unfortunately, the Big Misunderstanding drags the book down. After the initial setup and poignant flashbacks to establish the characterizations, it's as if the author didn't know how to keep the story going, so Taylor and Gordon revert to the old "Why should I ask what the truth is? He/she hurt me and I don't want to know/be hurt again." The story begins to spin its wheels, so to speak, and I found myself gritting my teeth at their pique.

The secondary characters don't fare much better. Gordon's receptionist is at the heart of the misunderstanding, yet she looks pained and guilty and wrings her hands and such for half the book before acting and doing what any mature person would do in thirty minutes, which is explain to Taylor what really happened ten years ago. Taylor's boyfriend, initially presented as a rich twit, undergoes a lightning transformation upon arrival in town. That didn't ring true.

Gordon and Taylor do find their happily-ever-after, and because they're basically likeable folks, it's a satisfying ending for readers. The sexual tension is well-done and effective. It's always been strong point in Deb Stover's stories, and she doesn't disappoint here. A Matter of Trust is worth a look.

--Cathy Sova

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