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Entwined by Bronwyn Williams
(Topaz, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-40751-2
****
There comes a point in Entwined where you can practically smell the salt on the Outer Banks island that serves as the novel's primary setting. That's how good author Bronwyn Williams is at setting the scene, creating a mood, and dropping the reader right into the middle of it. I thoroughly enjoyed Entwined, an involving tale of love and passion between two wary hearts.

The title Entwined certainly suits the book's premise, which begins with an implausible event that the author somehow manages to make believable. It all starts when Ana Gilbretta meets Fallon McKnight, on a southbound train. Ana has fled her Connecticut home in a well deserved panic – she has just killed her morally-bankrupt husband in self defense. Fallon is on the run as well, heading to a desolate Outer Banks island to serve as a companion to the wife of a retired millionaire. That the two women look enough alike to be sisters is the surprise. Though Ana is older and lacks Fallon's startling eyes, she meekly goes along when the younger beauty begins telling people they are sisters. Ana doesn't know anything about Fallon's less-than-pristine past, but when fate intervenes and allows her to assume the identity of her "sister", she does just that.

Arriving on the secluded island of Merriweather's Landing, Ana is welcomed into the lives of Mr. Merry, Miss Drucy and their extended family of servants. Mr. Merry build the isolated sand castle and fled civilization to protect the privacy of Miss Drucy, a woman who's mind has fallen prey to the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. Ana thinks the island is the last place anyone would look for a woman on the run.

She doesn't count on Brandon McKnight. Brand is a shipbuilder who has forsaken his trade to find and punish the woman responsible for the death of his brother. He has trailed Fallon McKnight, his brother's widow, and her mysterious "sister" all the way to this desolate place of surf and sand. Adopting a new identity, he enters the lives of the island inhabitants, determined to expose the wicked ways of the woman now serving as a caring companion.

He's in for a surprise. The Fallon he meets isn't at all like the malicious, greedy, man hungry woman he's heard of. This Fallon is sweet and funny and absolutely devoted to her charge. Brand is confused. Ana, is intrigued. This man isn't at all like her father or the beast he made her marry, the one who raped her and threatened her life before she struck back. This is a good man, even though he acts like he detests the very sand she walks on. And the more time the two spend together, the more they realize that despite the secrets and lies, they are drawn to each other.

The subtle shifting of emotions that occurs between the couple as their relationship develops is thoroughly convincing. Unlike many romances, where revenge flies out the window in the face of passion, or remains firmly entrenched despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, our hero Brand isn't sure what to do once he realizes he has come to care for Ana. He mourns the loss of his brother, but can't reconcile what he knows about his ex-sister-in-law with what he sees on a daily basis. He sees a supposedly vain woman with only two shabby dresses to her name racing through the surf, planting roses and providing emotional support to an aging woman with the mind of a child. The longer he stays at Merriweather's Landing, the more he comes to realize that no one could keep up such an act for such a length of time.

For Ana, her growing feelings for Brand are only one element of the emotional strength she begins to build. The comfort she receives from her new "family" begins to erase the years of demoralization at the hands of a selfish father and abusive husband. The murder is still hanging over her head, but she begins to realize that she can face her problems rather than run away from them.

Author Bronwyn Williams has a nice, easy-going style of writing that quickly drew me into the plight of the characters. Focusing on the emotions and the motivations of Ana and Brand, made even the clichéd "evil twin" plot device work. The author never sacrifices character for the sake of plot. It was one of those rare times when I found myself able to take off the reviewer's hat and just enjoy the book for what it was – a good love story about two nice people who deserve to put the pain away and live happily ever after.

--Ann McGuire


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