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Come Morning
No Regrets

Stand-In Father by Pat Warren
(Silhouette Intimate Moments #855, $4.25, PG)
ISBN 0-373-07855-2
Alex Shepherd worked hard – although his father was so wealthy there was no need – and he played hard. During one of his play weekends, he contracted a deadly liver disease. Eventually, Alex's life was measured in hours when suddenly he vaulted over the next patient in line to reach the top of the transplant list and receive a new liver.

Later, overhearing a conversation in the hospital, he knows instinctively that his father purchased his first place position. After his recovery, Alex hires a detective to find out about the person who should have had the donor liver.

The search leads to the widow and son of Neal Delaney. Alex's company is considering purchasing raw land for development in their area, so he uses this opportunity to investigate the widow's circumstances. Knowing Megan Delaney runs a bed and board inn, he elects to stay there for the duration of his business trip.

Uneasily Alex notices that the inn is in need of repairs and general maintenance. Megan herself checks him in, and during the process he meets her engaging and energetic small son, Ryan. Alex knows that her husband had a large life insurance policy but he doesn't see any evidence of the money. He then begins the process of ingratiating himself with Megan and the staff in his search to satisfy himself that she is financially well off.

Megan, on the other hand, is unusually resistant to anyone trying to help her do anything. Not overloaded with self-esteem, she also wonders what Alex could possibly see in her or Ryan and is suspicious of his interest. Ryan is drawn to Alex immediately and their relationship blossoms. However, Megan makes it abundantly clear she wishes to avoid personal relationships in any form.

Anyone who is so antagonistic to help from an attractive male usually has reasons, and Megan has plenty of them. As the plot develops, it becomes obvious that Megan has almost more than she can handle, both physically and emotionally.

Although Alex's interest in Megan initially is that of a concerned friend, his concern quickly turns to attraction – with the realization that he has misrepresented himself to her big time. Working through the problems in their touching romance adds another dimension to this book.

Stand-In Father addresses the medical issues surrounding liver transplants. The recipient selection process is humanized when a compassionate, honorable person learns he has been given an organ that should have gone to someone else…and now has to live with the guilt.

If you have ever purchased a ticket for a guilt trip, then you will find something to relate to in this imaginative rendition of guilt in many forms. Its causes, its manifestations and its reconciliation with reality are adroitly treated by Warren.

If you are ready for a change of pace from usual plot lines, the treatment of the very topical liver transplant issue is deftly handled. This book is the product of careful research combined with Warren's usual entertaining and likeable characters and generates my enthusiastic recommendation.

--Thea Davis

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