by Patti Berg

May 2000
ISBN: 0-380-80736-X
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Somewhere, in a dark and secret place, there is a book that is only available to romance writers - it contains the best names for heroines! Obviously Patti Berg has access to this book, hence the heroine of this novel - Cairo McKnight!! The book for male names is in another secure and undisclosed location, because Duncan Kincaid, while nicely heroic, is not out-of-the-ordinary!

Sadly, Cairo doesn't live up to her name. After a passionate wedding night, Duncan has to leave Cairo's side and is unable to return. Cairo thinks herself deserted and files for an annulment - not realizing she's pregnant. Here's a major plot flaw: if you've been in love with this guy for years, finally married him and just had the greatest sex of your life with him, wouldn't you put a whole bunch of effort into finding him if he disappeared?

So it's now five years later, and Cairo has brought her son Dylan to the Arizona desert where she knows Duncan is spelunking his way through some mountain caves. It's in her mind to see if Duncan has what it takes to be a father to Dylan - there is mention of an airplane crash, which Cairo survived, apparently the near-death experience has convinced her that her son needs both a father and a mother. This plane crash is a horribly obvious plot contrivance; it is only mentioned at convenient times (i.e. information came from a "friend" of Duncan's who happened to be on the plane, and so forth) and really plays no part at all in furthering the story.

Of course, the spark is still there between Duncan and Cairo but in fact, there are few, if any "sparks" - it's more like a family reunion! It is also difficult to distinguish between Duncan's spelunking and his treasure-hunting - if anyone knows why he should be following a Mayan map in the middle of Arizona, please tell me! Cairo dithers about the campsite and the caverns, unsure of whether to tell Duncan about his son, and of course her failure to do so causes repercussions. The tale builds little or no tension between Duncan and Cairo, and the reader is very hard pressed to care much about their situation one way or the other. This might not have been so unforgivable, had it not been for two secondary characters, Graham Kincaid and Phoebe McKnight. Graham, Duncan's dad, has been wheelchair-bound for several years, and Phoebe, Cairo's aunt, is still whimsically single, and missing Woodstock more each passing day. These two characters steal this novel right out from underneath Duncan and Cairo.

They show the perfect amount of honesty, hesitancy and frustrated desire - it is so easy for readers to understand the complex nature of their emotions! Why couldn't Cairo and Duncan have demonstrated the same sorts of personality? We might have been able to like them so much more even though they were both idiotic enough to take a four-year-old boy into some deep mountain caves. Oh, and not to be too picky, but little Dylan is a royal pain!! Bright kids are wonderful and challenging, but this kid is a walking disaster and needs some serious attention! We can hope that the happy ending will bring Dylan what he needs, but sad to say, we don't really care one way or the other

Reviewed in December 2001 by Celia.

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