Harvest Moon
by Rochelle Alers, contemporary (1999)
Arabesque, $4.99, ISBN 1-58314-056-5

Finally I manage to get my grubby paws on Rochelle Alers' latest. It's not easy - for some reason bookstores in Singapore don't stock up on Arabesque (and many other lines, for that matter). But thanks to a romance-reading colleague who has just returned from USA, I get to read this book.

And it's a great read. There's something about Ms Aler's easy and fluid writing style and the way she creates likable characters that make HM a pleasure to read. But since I'm also a nosy old biddy, I demand to know why people in my romance novels fall in love. Unfortunately, HM doesn't answer that question adequately.

Regina Cole is a 27-year old retired award-nominated actress who has just lost a husband. The man, Oscar, was fifty years her senior, of all things, but she has her reason for marrying him. (Not for money, of course. She's a heroine, after all.) When her stepson Aaron Spencer, a coffee-plantation owner who is also a brilliant researcher in Brazil drops by the family home in Bahia, sparks fly faster than a nuclear reactor on the verge of meltdown, and like they say, honey, it's true love.

All in a nice storytelling style that has me absorbed way past bedtime. It's definitely Ms Aler's skill that keep me reading, because I must admit the characters could be done better and the plot could be tighter.

Take Aaron, a real sexy hero whose bedside manners are sure darned fine. First he (reasonably, I may add) suspects Regina of seducing his father for money, His father married Aaron's true love in the past, after all, and thanks to Daddy Estranged Dearest, he now doesn't trust women. But soon enough he is feeling grateful to Regina for giving ten years of her life caring for his dying father. And then, in a blink of an eye he's in love with her. What happened to the initial distrust and suspicion? Well, I would accept the abrupt change in personality if Regina shows some personality trait that makes Aaron see the inner beauty of hers, but all Aaron thinks about in Regina's company is her fine golden skin and perfect legs and gorgeous lips and... practically every inch of her perfect aerobicized body. So is it just physical? There's some brief mention of him attracted to Regina's inner strength, but it's all in a superficial mention. Aaron's guilt over missed opportunities with his father rings true and is heartwrenching, but nothing else about him is convincing.

Then there's Regina, who for some reason just can't say yes to Aaron's proposal even as she plays hanky-panky tickle-me-there with him with great relish. What? Again, I'm not sure. She misses her family in America, so off she goes, but that surely isn't the reason she keep expecting the relationship between she and Aaron to be temporary. Is it? She insists that she can't stay with him after six months, then is grievously offended when he proposes right after she announces her pregnancy. He must be marrying her for the baby, she decides in a huff. Err, what does this woman want from Aaron exactly? On one hand she can't commit, on the other hand she's offended when he doesn't act like a lovelorn fool. No wonder she marries Oscar. I can't help thinking this woman needs a father, not a lover.

Yes, it's definitely Ms Aler's talented skill in telling a story that keep me reading. I know the story's second half is irritating as it hinges on wishy-washy Regina's ability to say yes or no. I usually dislike this sort of story, but I keep reading anyway. So yes, I will look up Ms Aler's books if I can find them - this woman can sure write a story (oh dear, I'm sounding like a broken record)! Too bad HM just isn't as good as I expected.

Rating: 73

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