|Julie Ortolon: Lead Me On|
St. Martin's (Paperback), ISBN: 0-312-98348-4
Allison St. Claire owns and runs a bed and breakfast on Galveston Island with her brother Adrian and sister Aurora (Rory). Many losses throughout her life, as well as a jerk boyfriend in high school who got her pregnant, leave Allison afraid to get emotionally close to people. A miscarriage at the age of 16 also leaves Allison fearing for Rory, pregnant with her first child. But despite the first impression of sweet and innocent, Allison longs for what everyone else does -- some first rate nookie.
Best-selling author Scott Lawrence finds himself with a colossal case of writer's block. Hoping that the good luck of a ghost that reportedly haunts the bed and breakfast will help him meet his deadline, he checks in for a month. Distant from most of his family, Scott doesn't want a long-term relationship. He takes one look at Allison and decides that Miss Sweet and Innocent lies out of his reach -- much to her annoyance.
Allison convinces him she only wants a roll in the hay, and they spend the night at a nearby hotel. But while chatting the next day, Scott learns something about her -- she hates his family. Scott changed his last name after turning 18 to get farther away from his family, especially his overbearing, business-oriented father, John LeRoche. John LeRoche, a distant relative of Allison and her family, used to own the bed and breakfast and now wants it back. Lawsuits fly as LeRoche tries to drive the St. Claires into bankruptcy and the St. Claires try to defend themselves.
Allison and Scott find themselves drawing closer emotionally. When Allison -- lost in memories of her miscarriage -- falls apart after Rory safely gives birth, Scott falls completely in love with her. But he fears that once she discovers his true identity, she will want nothing more to do with him.
Julie Ortolon writes very strong and believable characters. The depth of Allison's fear and despair concerning her miscarriage tangibly draws the reader in, nearly evoking tears. The family interplay -- Allison's very loving and close family vs. Scott's self-absorbed and distant one -- comes across nicely as well. A great and gripping read.
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