Her Ideal Man

In the Midnight Rain

Meant to Be Married


As Barbara Samuel:

The Black Angel

Dancing Moon

Heart of a Knight

Beautiful Stranger by Ruth Wind
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1011, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-27081-X
Louise Forrest, the matchmaker from prior books in Ruth Wind’s “The Last Roundup” series, decides to keep on trying. She has expanded her horizons beyond her family and centers on Marissa Pierce. Marissa and her twin Victoria (apparently the heroine of the next Wind book) are daughters of one of the countries' billionaires.

The sisters’ emotional baggage is a little different from the usual poor little rich girl theme. When they were 10 years old their parents decided they were too close, and separated them by placing each in a boarding school in a different foreign country. Food became their attention getting device. Marissa ate her way to being 100 lbs overweight, and Victoria became anorexic. Moving into their twenties, food was still Marissa's drug of choice. Her desire was to be loved for herself, not for her money and despite her appearance.

One day she decided to start the long fight of weight loss. We meet Marissa 85 lbs thinner. She is a teacher in rural Colorado, haunting garage sales looking for antiques, in line skating, walking a lot, and by the way, funding a 25 million dollar shelter in Denver.

Robert Martinez is a Native American Gulf War veteran known as Red Dog. He is a close friend of Louise's son and because of his emotionally barren background has come to regard the Forrest family as prototypes of what family could have been. His 15-year-old niece, Crystal, shows up on his doorstep, pregnant, having been kicked out by her mother in deference to the new man in the house.

Robert takes her in, and starts a "family" of his own. He is a skilled craftsman, working on house restoration projects with a penchant for antique glass and a skill for stained glass. He and Marissa are thrown together when she becomes Crystal's teacher. Crystal is a very poor, uninterested student with acute literary analytical skills that surface in movie critiques. She fears her boyfriend is a victim to a gangland warfare.

What do Robert and Marissa have in common besides a search to make Crystal happy and an immediate attraction? Perhaps, their love of glass?

Beautiful Stranger is the fourth book in "The Last Roundup" series, which apparently was originally intended to be a trilogy. There are several sets of characters involved in the plot that for the most part are not developed at all; the author instead relying upon the reader's knowledge from prior books. While it’s not fatal to the story, it may be disconcerting if you have not read them.

Ruth Wind is going with a traditional theme -- that of healing and self-acceptance having to come from within, and then being sustained by that inner drive. In addition, she has crafted a love story between two of the many people who are healing themselves, but who may be the two most diametrically opposed people on the planet.

Robert and Marissa are so different that in order to bring them together credibly, it would require the author focus totally on them in this book. In fact, there are many subplots going on at the same time, almost any of which could be the foundation of a story by itself.

It is hard to fault an author for original twists to old themes, but in this case fewer might have been better. Still for everyone who is not a perfect size 6, this book offers a different slant for a love story.

--Thea Davis

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