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Crescent Blues Book Views Zebra (Paperback), ISBN 0-8217-7455-7

Charisma Sullivan's bluntness manages to alienate most everyone she knows. What she thinks flies out of her mouth before she considers the consequences. Her views also don't endear her to the others in 1880s Colorado Springs, because politics and women's rights fascinate Charisma. But with a little push from one of the three Graces of Greek mythology, Charisma finds herself introducing Senate candidate Will Barclay to her town's movers and shakers. As they get better acquainted, Charisma grows to believe in Will and his campaign, which promotes rights for the lower classes as well as the rich.

Book: karen fox, touch of charm

Will doesn't plans to marry, choosing to spend his time and energy on his campaign. He simply must defeat his brother, Stephen, also running for a Senate seat. His brother's past conduct appalls Will, so Will needs to win to provide a balancing influence against Stephen. But he finds himself extremely attracted to Charisma, and he fights his inner urges to kiss and hold her.

Charisma's strong will lands her in trouble. Determined to make a difference in others' lives, she begins helping fallen women learn other skills, skills that will help them gain respectable employment. After a few Grace-orchestrated snafus, Will must rescue Charisma from the house of ill-repute, bringing the old scandal involving Stephen to light. Further scandal soon adds the couple's problems, and despite Will's insistence that they marry to save their reputations, Charisma wants none of that. If she marries, it must be for love. Even saving Will's candidacy won't motivate her to wed him.

Karen Fox packs the story with wonderful secondary characters. Her method of disguising Thalia, the Greek Grace in town to help matters, works nicely -- though the fallen women do fall prey to stereotyping. Charisma proves to be the most entertaining part of the novel (though her younger sister's constant clumsiness ranks as a close second). The reader never knows just what faux pas Charisma might make next. And Will's change of heart at the end of the novel adds a sweet touch.

Jen Foote

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