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True North    by Beverly Brandt order for
True North
by Beverly Brandt
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2002 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

For weeks Claire Brown has been working long hours so she can escape on a much-anticipated romantic getaway with her fiancée. She's even paying for their trip to the wilds of Colorado just to show Bryan how much she cares for him and anticipates their pending nuptials. Today, as always, Claire is running late. In a rare moment of rebellion against her habit of always answering her phone, she chooses to ignore it. When she finally catches her flight she's relieved to find Bryan already there. But that bubbly feeling is brutally squashed when Brian tersely informs Claire that their relationship is over and that he'd never had any intention of going to Colorado with her. In fact, he'd phoned to break up with her just before he and his new 'blond bimbo girl friend' boarded the flight - maybe Claire should have checked her voicemail! Furious over the way Bryan chose to end things, and even more furious with herself for not seeing the worm's true colors, Claire vows to proceed to Hunter's Lodge, despite Brian and his simpering new girlfriend.

John McBride is the handsome and rugged proprietor of Hunter's Lodge and similar getaways in Hawaii and the Caribbean, and he absolutely hates workaholics. His mother and ex-wife are both confirmed workaholics, and have left John determined to never again involve himself with such a creature. Enter the annoying Ms. Brown. From the moment they meet she manages to get under John's skin. She not only mistakes him for a simple handyman, she's way too bossy and seems to really enjoy her 'intimate relationship' with her cell phone and laptop. Despite being sympathetic to her plight, and yes, even angry over the way her former boyfriend used her, John remains firm in keeping his distance from the exasperating, yet admittedly, very attractive and sexy, Ms. Brown. But that's easier said than done as he finds himself either saving the woman from herself, from various pranks she pulls on Bryan and his bimbo, from his visiting mother who's decided Claire is the perfect woman for her son, and from their own growing and very fiery attraction. When a colleague from Seattle realizes that Claire knows too much about an insurance fraud scam that's been going on for years, it's up to John to protect the woman he loves - and to admit to himself that he can't live without her.

First time author Beverly Brandt has created a well written, stylish, fun, and often sizzling read in True North. Her two lead characters are wonderfully realized: Claire as the astute and competent business woman but a failure in personal life; John as a rugged outdoors man, burned out from his FBI job and burned once too often by the wrong kind of woman. Ms. Brandt is a former financial analyst and she uses her knowledge of the industry to infuse believability into her plot, yet manages to never let it detract from John and Claire's growing relationship. Let's hope Ms. Brandt's next release is out soon!

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