To Laney, With Love
by Joyce Sullivan
(Harl. Intrigue #516, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-22516-4
***
Here's an interesting premise. A widow receives a note from her dead husband, asking her to meet him on Valentine's Day in another city. Cruel hoax? Lost mail? Or is he really even dead?

To Laney, With Love poses this question, as Laney Dobson pulls such a note out of her mailbox one February morning. Reese Dobson died in an avalanche on a skiing trip over a year before, and Laney is just now beginning to come out of her shell. She's even fantasized a time or two about her son's hunky hockey coach, Ben Forbes. But this note throws her into a tailspin.

Laney, accompanied by Ben, travels to Vancouver for the assignation. What she finds is Reese, but he's, er, freshly dead with a stab wound in his chest. The police are quickly suspicious of Laney. Was Reese leading a double life? Or was he an amnesiac?

All signs point to bigamy, or worse. Reese is identified as "Graham," and his new wife isn't buying Laney's tale, even with photos. If Reese and Graham are one and the same, who wanted him dead? And why?

I was never able to work up more than a passing interest in this story, and throughout, the romance seemed at odds with the mystery. Laney must come to grips with the idea that Reese was a man who may have faked his own death to walk out on his wife and child after nine years of marriage, and was quite possibly involved with other women, yet she falls for Ben with hardly a backward glance. It didn't seem realistic given the level of possible betrayal.

And the ending didn't strike me as particularly realistic, either. When the mystery of Reese is finally unraveled, let's say the logistics are glossed over and crossed the line into implausibility, given Canada's vast size.

Joyce Sullivan brings her background as a private investigator into play, and her descriptions of the various settings office, warehouse, hotel - are sure and expressive. Ben and Laney are likable characters who are obviously meant for each other, and their journey to love is sweet.

If you like your romance with a dose of suspense, you may want to give To Laney, With Love a look.

--Cathy Sova


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