The Promise
by Robin Allen, contemporary (2001)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-223-1

Robin Allen's The Promise isn't much in the plot department, but this is one story that pulls through on the strength of its characters alone.

The Promise here refers to Gillian DuBois' promise to care for the daughter of her sister Nolah after Nolah died in a car accident. Or is it an accident? Now Gillian, a freelance photographer who never has to do this sort of thing before, has to take care of seven-year old Jordy as well as to investigate the mystery of her sister's death.

Her search leads her to Romare Ellington, an executive at LaRoux Oil. This company is the one Nolah was investigating before she was killed. Romare too has promises to keep. He promised his late mother that he will take care of his siblings. Romare and Gillian spark, of course, but you know how these things are. Who did Nolah in? Is Romare involved? (Hint: no.)

Plotwise, this is an average romantic suspense thing. Who did it, how they did it, et cetera, won't be rocking the world on its axis anytime soon.

However, it is the characters that help this book hit the home run. Gillian is a wonderful heroine who can hold her own, insecure but damn if she wouldn't try to do her best to get over all those blues. Likewise, Romare is a nice guy, sensitive and kind without turning into milquetoast. Their relationship is just at the right note and pace, developing gradually without any hate-you-but-lust-after-you-ya-ya-ya conga making a mess out of things. I am not too fond of Romare's cheerleading siblings, but Gillian and Jordy's relationship is bittersweet as it should be between a first-time mother figure and a scared little girl.

A moving romance between likable - and more importantly, characters that seem real and feel real emotions elevate this one above the rest of the pap books out there. Chalk this one as Slim But Good.

Rating: 89

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