Haunting Rachel
by Kay Hooper, contemporary (1999)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-57183-4


This book lacks what they call the ooomph factor. The punch-in-your-stomach Ooomph! feel that you get when you read a really memorable book. This book isn't bad, but it is missing some sort of ingredient that would make it stick in my mind, and I have no idea what it is.

Rachel Grant has been in love with her fiancé Thomas Grant since she was 16. Now, at 29, she is still mourning the death of Thomas ten years ago (he had a plane crash over South America). Now, just when she is about to make some progress in getting on with her life, a Thomas lookalike, Adam Delafield pops into her life, claiming that Rachel's late dad has loaned him three million dollars. Rachel is surprised - surely the loan would have been recorded in her father's books? - yet she is also attracted to this Thomas, wait, no, Adam.

Nasty things begin to happen to her, like her brakes getting cut and buildings in which she is in exploding as if there is no tomorrow. What is going on? And worse, Rachel discovers that Daddy, Adam, and everyone may have secrets that can cost her her life.

Sounds dramatic huh? Actually, this story is pretty fun, if rather so-so in nature. I can never resist a Sommersby type of story, but somehow I know who Adam really is. There seems to be no attempt made by the author to keep me guessing if Adam is or isn't Thomas. Likewise, Rachel comes dangerously close to being a ninny. This woman trusts Adam implicitly without him giving her any reason to. She willingly forgoes caution from acquaintances she knows longer than Adam, while telling herself she trusts him not because he looks like Thomas. Of course. I believe you, Rachel.

In fact, most of the story arc hinges on whether Adam will let Rachel know a crucial information or not. After a while, I can't help but to feel a bit exasperated - is Rachel ever in control of her life, or does she have to have people arrange it all for her? Her life seems to be nothing more than a well-ordered itinerary chartered by first her father, then Thomas, and now, Adam.

Adam and Rachel's relationship is lackluster. I never could see Rachel's love for Thomas and now Adam as nothing more than a crush stuck in permanent stasis, never progressing any further than an undeveloped crush a 16-year-old's has on a man ten years older than she. I can understand Adam's attraction to Rachel after his confession at the last chapter, but egads, why would the attraction persists upon first meet is beyond me. Rachel is a hapless, co-dependent poor little rich Daddy's girl whose occasional show of maturity never compensates for the rather naive trust she has on Adam and her even more naive insistence on placing every fishy incidents as coincidence.

The secondary romance between Rachel's friend Mercy and her boss Nicholas, a supposedly-meaningless affair gone awry (they have to fall in love) has more teeth. Nicholas is an intriguingly dangerous and sexy hero, and Mercy demonstrates backbone and independence and intelligence Rachel can only dream of. Too bad these people aren't the centerstage players in this story.

So there's little Ooomph factor. But this book has the Oh! factor. If anything, it manages to convince me utterly to burn any letters, diaries, and other thingies that can embarrass me totally when I'm no longer in this world to defend myself. Not that I have any dark secrets recorded in journals or anything, but there are those diaries I still keep, the silly nonsense I wrote when I was 14. Egads, if reading about me at 14 having a crush on Brother John in my nearby church makes me wince, I dare not speculate the reaction of busybodies nosing through my things. These things have to go, and I don't care even if one day my private adolescent doodling are worth a million bucks in, say, fifty years time.

Now, where did I keep my baby pictures again?

Rating: 65


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