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Meant to be Married by Ruth Wind
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1194, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24194-1
****
Ruth Wind has taken a Romeo and Juliet theme, modernized it and in doing so, has written another wonderful book. She's done something that Mr. Shakespeare forgot to do. She's given Meant to Be Married a happily ever after ending. In her own way, she's topped ol' Will. Good for her.

In 1859, Manuel Santiago was hanged for the rape of Emily Greenwood. A week later Emily committed suicide. A Hatfield-McCoy mentality has haunted the Santiago and Greenwood families to the present. Twelve years ago, eighteen-year-old Elias Santiago and seventeen-year- old Sarah Greenwood, our modern day lovers, wondered if the age-old family curse had found them. On the night that they had planned to elope, Elias was wrongfully jailed for raping Sarah. Sarah's father, on the police force, was able to successfully incarcerate Elias for two months. During that time, he sent his daughter to an unwed mother's home to give birth to her illegitimate child. When Eli got out of jail, he couldn't find Sarah. For all these years he's blamed her for giving up their child and has hated her father for his part in their tragedy.

Sarah has not been back to Taos, New Mexico for twelve years. She hasn't seen her parents or Eli since the night her father had him arrested and sent her away. She's back because of her mother's request. Her father is very ill and may be dying. It's time to mend some fences.

Sarah and Eli bump into each other almost immediately. If any love is left, it's buried deeply. Eli, now a successful businessman, still nurtures his hatred of Sarah's father. Sarah has had twelve years to blame herself for signing her daughter's adoption papers. A betting person wouldn't give these two, with their tumultuous past, much in the way of favorable odds for rekindling their love or even for being able to forgive each other.

Sarah and Eli are brought together by Eli's niece Teresa, a vivacious, lovely young woman who wants to be a model. Sarah, a successful photographer, offers to shoot Teresa's portfolio. Due to the bad blood between the two families, Teresa's mother demands that Eli be there during each photo session. Gradually Sarah and Eli realize that their love has managed to survive all that has been thrown in its path. There are still major obstacles, though: the Santiagos and the Greenwoods. Each family hates the other.

Ruth Wind a.k.a. Barbara Samuel (in case you want to find all of her books) has done an incredible job of plotting this story. The 1859 tragedy that began the whole feud is meticulously dovetailed into the modern framework. The parallels are obvious. When Sarah sees a picture of Manuel Santiago and is shocked at his resemblance to his modern day descendant, Eli, she investigates the case. Its similarities mirror her relationship with Eli. Will she and Eli be able to break the curse?

Sarah's despair is simple to understand and palpably written. The two men she loves are unwilling to forgive each other. Each tenaciously and stubbornly hangs onto his pride and hate. Sarah feels so conflicted, loving each man as she does. When she goes to Eli's grandmother for help, she receives solid advice.

Frustration welled in Sarah's throat.
"I've tried!" she burst out. "Don't you think I tried? They always put me in the middle. They're still doing it."

"The middle is a good place to see both sides, eh?"

Meant to Be Married showcases Ruth Wind at her finest. Her dialog is realistic. Her characters are real people, impassioned not caricatures or cardboard figures. Her themes are honest and are resolved with dignity, humor and goodness. Her talent is tangible.

Categories have a short shelf life. Buy this one as soon as you see it. Better yet, buy two. Give one to a friend. After you've both read it, you can talk about the incredible and touchingly poignant epilogue. As I write this, I'm chuckling, thinking that, just maybe, I've left you wanting more. Good!

--Linda Mowery


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