Her Sisterís Secret by Linda Style
(Harl. Super #923, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-70923-4
***
Linda Styleís first book for Harlequin has a lot to recommend it. However, it has one flaw that decreased my enjoyment of what was overall a good story. Still, this is a most promising debut novel.

Whitney Sheffield has come to the small town of Estrade, Arizona, on a mission. She is looking for her niece, the daughter of her now dead younger sister. Morgan had recently died of a drug overdose, but not before she had told her sister that she had a three-year-old daughter. This child had been kidnapped by Rhys Gannon, the man who had led Morgan into a life of drugs, prostitution, and ultimately, death. Morgan begs her Whitney to find Sarajane and save her from the evil Rhys.

A successful photographer and the daughter of wealthy parents, Whitney has the resources to track down Rhys. As the book begins, she is watching the man who destroyed her beloved sister as he boisterously greets a group of bikers. Rhys owns a motorcycle shop in Estrade and Whitney is sure that it is a front for his drug dealing. When the leather-clad Rhys approaches her in all his leather regalia, she is more than a little fearful. But her determination to find her niece gives her the courage to stand up to this handsome but dangerous man.

Needing an excuse to linger in Estrade, Whitney claims she has an assignment to do a photographic book on motorcycles and asks Rhys to help her to learn more about both the machines and the people who ride them. Intrigued by her aristocratic blond beauty, Rhys agrees. So Whitney moves into Rhysí parents inn and into his shop. The more she gets to know him, the more she wonders about her sisterís description of Rhysí character. Maybe he has turned his life around since she can find no evidence that he is currently involved in anything illegal. And clearly, he adores Sarajane, who spends her days at the inn and is an adorable, well-cared for and well-loved child. Moreover, Whitney finds herself attracted to the man and has to keep reminding herself that her sister spoke of his dangerous charm.

Both Whitney and Rhys obviously have secrets and Style uncovers these in a clever and careful way. Whitney is a wounded heroine, the daughter of abusive alcoholics and betrayed by her previous fiancť. Rhys has his own unhappy experience with marriage and with life. Both are well-developed characters.

While there is much to like about Her Sisterís Secret, the plot did have a major problem. This centers on the fact that Whitney becomes intimate with Rhys I>before<\I> she knows the truth. Granted, she has spent time with him, has found him surprisingly different from the man described by her sister. Yet she doesnít know for sure if Rhys is indeed the man she has come to know or whether he is the supreme con artist who helped destroy her sister. I just had a lot of trouble with the love scene at that point in the story.

Thus, I ultimately concluded that Her Sisterís Secret is a good story, but the problem I had with the heroineís behavior keeps me from recommending it.

--Jean Mason


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