Engaging Sam by Ingrid Weaver
(Silh. Int. Mom. #875, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-07875-7
****
Engaging Sam is one of the 'Men in Blue' theme books. Spotting the police badge thematic flash on the cover will alert you that you're reading a law-enforcement story. I was impressed at how appropriate and how charming the title is. I love discovering midway through a book that a title is multifaceted.

Audra McPherson is awakened in the middle of the night when a nude man climbs through her window and into her bed. She is terrified and fights for all she's worth. When she realizes that the man is her next door neighbor, Sam Tucker, a mild-mannered accountant, she's somewhat mollified. He whispers that his apartment is being burgled and that he is really a detective who's undercover, trying to flush out a top money launderer. Audra doesn't realize it yet, but her life is about to change as she becomes the integral part of Sam's cover story.

Sam learns that Audra's family will cater the money launderer's daughter's wedding. McPherson company policy is to hire only family, so Sam convinces Audra to pretend to be his fiancÚ. He'll pose as a recent victim of downsizing, an out-of-work accountant, exactly what her family needs. When he's hired, he'll have access to the bad guy's heavily guarded estate and may be able to ferret out information. Audra is torn. She realizes that her help will be essential if the bad guy is to be caught, but she hates to lie to her close-knit family.

Engaging Sam is a complex mix of a developing love story and an interesting crime drama. Both Sam and Audra have lots of past baggage. Audra's fiancÚ died slowly as the result of an accident that paralyzed him. Sam is the child of a whore who openly announced that he was a mistake, one she should have aborted. Their childhoods are disparate, but both want no part of a committed relationship. That reluctance to commit in no way slows down the simmering passion. One scene is particularly intense when Sam and Audra are caught snooping by a thuggy guard. Knowing that the guard will believe that lust overcame them, they stage a mock love scene in the bad guy's office. Soon, however, all of us wonder how simulated it really is. It's a wonder that the desk doesn't incinerate.

Be prepared for the usual ramblings of "I'm no good for her. She deserves better." What Sam can't resist is a heroine who recognizes that she wants their pretend relationship to be real. He also has a hard time resisting Audra's loving and loyal family, particularly a sister-in-law who gives Audra a box of two dozen size-XL condoms. I loved it when Audra decided that her sister-in-law had been right on target about the size.

Engaging Sam is truth in advertising. I was engaged, delightedly so.

--Linda Mowery


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