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In Memory's Shadow

 
A Stranger is Watching
by Linda Randall Wisdom
(Silh. Int. Mom. #879, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07879-X
***
Jenna Welles is a waitress by trade and an artist by definition. While working a party in a private room Jenna overhears a conversation and her testimony leads to the indictment and conviction of a major crime boss. At the time she was living with U.S. Marshall Riley Cooper.

Hours before Jenna hears the incriminating evidence, Riley discovers her with a pregnancy testing kit. Riley doesn't want children because he himself was abused as a child, and because in his job he comes into contact with the scum of the earth and doesn't want to bring children into it. (Have you heard this one before?) But Jenna does.

Riley believes that Jenna is deliberately trying to get pregnant. The lack of trust turns into a Great Misunderstanding; and Jenna enters the Witness Relocation Program without a backward glance, refusing to even talk with Riley before going.

Jenna fears that Riley would have to give up his job and his life to relocate with her, and she loves him too much to allow him to do that. But what she doesn't realize is that Riley has become burned out in his job and would have been willing to retire to be with her.

Three years pass, Riley is now retired and chasing the surf on a Pacific Island, and Jenna is a secretary in the mid-west forbidden by the program to continue her art work. Each is miserable, but their lives change when Jenna is located by underlings of the crime boss. She is attacked and injured. Interrupted by a neighbor, her attacker flees and Jenna survives. When the U.S.Marshals gather to talk with her, she refuses to deal with anyone except Riley.

Riley's former partner asks him to come back to help Jenna. When he returns, Riley is outraged by what he sees as a shabby job of protecting her. Taking matters into his own hands, he takes her to a honeymoon resort in Mexico until he can figure out what is going on.

The relationship between Jenna and Riley is a love affair that on some fronts must start over, but on others is already at the advanced stage. To Wisdom's credit, she does not dwell unduly on the angst of Riley's feelings toward children. Instead, we see the maturation of a relationship that takes into account the growth of each of the parties during the intervening years. I did however, find the resolution of their problems a bit too pat and contrived.

Luckily, A Stranger is Watching reveals the multi-dimensional aspects of the characters. And those likable characters plus conflict that is credibly sustained and snappy dialogue make this an interesting possibility for your book bag.

--Thea Davis


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