Twice Upon a Time
by Jennifer Wagner
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1092, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-27162-X
New author Jennifer Wagner states in an intro page that she wanted to sell her first book before she was thirty. Kudos to her goal-setting abilities and to her interest in the craft of writing. My guess is that she'll have more successful goals met before too long.

Setting the stage for an suspenseful love story, Anna Ramsey watches the casket of her only love, Rico Carella, lowered into the ground. She and Rico's mother try to take some consolation that Rico died a hero's death in the service of his country. Anna deeply regrets that her last meeting with Rico ended in anger, with him believing that she'd been unfaithful. She also regrets that he never knew that he was the father of her twins. What she doesn't know is that someone with sinister intent watched her leave the funeral.

Now Anna has a full life with her twins and her successful cartoon career. She hasn't been interested in any man since Rico until she meets her new neighbor, Gage Moran. She's somewhat chagrined at the meeting, considering that she's having to return mail that her twins 'borrowed' from mailboxes. What she doesn't know, but what we do, is that this stranger is really her beloved Rico, who didn't die. What did happen to him was that he was captured by the enemy and tortured so horrendously that it took surgery to put him back together. The only identifying feature from the old Rico is his eyes, so he's wearing contacts.

Rico is infiltrating Anna's life because someone has begun investigating his new identity. He's afraid that the people who tortured him want Anna and the twins to suffer, too. He's instantly smitten with his twins and tells himself frequently that he forgives Anna for her youthful infidelity. He's torn between his love for her and his feelings of betrayal.

When Anna does learn that Gage is actually Rico, she's alternately thrilled and angry that he never gave her a chance to explain her 'betrayal.' What really happened is that Rico's mother told him that Anna was seeing other men, hoping to convince Rico that he was too young to marry. Rico took her warning a step further and convicted Anna of being unfaithful. He confronted her but never gave her a chance to explain.

Now they've got to overcome past hurts as they work together to insure their safety. Someone wants to hurt the children, knowing that this pain will hurt Rico and Anna more than any harm that might come to themselves.

Jennifer Wagner has a smooth style with clean prose. Her depiction of the twins is charming, adding comic relief to a sometimes tense story. Anna is an intelligent, emotionally stable young woman who's been dealt a bad hand and has made it into a winning one.

My only problem with Twice Upon a Time is Rico's reaction to Anna's 'betrayal.' This is one of the countless books where characters don't talk to each other. An honest conversation might have solved their problems, allowing the story to concentrate on more positive aspects of their relationship. Rico accuses Anna, but never believes in her innocence. He's judge and jury, finding her guilty only on the word of his mother, who, if I read the storyline correctly, never indicated that Anna was being unfaithful. She only said that Anna was seeing other men. Rico is the one who put the ugly spin on it.

Too often Rico tells himself that he forgives Anna, and he tells her the same thing. Well, isn't that big of him! I've never been impressed with heroes who act impulsively regarding truly life-altering situations. Loving Anna as he claimed should have merited her a chance to explain, a chance to prove her innocence. But this lunkhead never gave her a chance.

At the very least Anna should have been given the privilege of seeing him do major groveling at their second attempt at getting it right. Darn!

Jennifer Wagner has penned an impressive debut novel. She's done a good job incorporating the suspense thread with the romantic aspects of the story. If her next story has a hero whose strengths equal the strengths of Anna in this story, then we're in store for one fine and dandy tale.

--Linda Mowery

@ Please tell us what you think! back Back Home