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Cabin Fever    by Marilyn Pappano order for
Cabin Fever
by Marilyn Pappano
Order:  USA  Can
Dell, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

After serving time for a crime he didn't commit, lawyer Chase Wilson returns home to Bethlehem, New York, content to live a hermit's life in a small cabin just outside of town. But when his new landlord shows up unexpectedly and moves in next door his plan to keep to himself goes right down the drain. Nolie Harper and her daughter Micahlyn are underfoot at every turn. Even worse, Nolie seems determined to be a 'friendly neighbour'. Intent on keeping the pair at arm's length and as far away from his personal business as possible, Chase makes a point of being obnoxious every chance he gets.

Having made her escape from controlling in-laws after inheriting real estate and a feed store in Bethlehem, Nolie vows that no one will dictate how she lives her life ever again. From now on she's calling the shots and she's genuinely excited about what lies ahead for her and daughter Micahlyn. The fact that her tenant is crude, obnoxious and 'the Bogie Man' in the eyes of her child, doesn't curb Nolie's enthusiasm. Besides, she senses that underneath Chase Wilson's bluff and scruffy exterior lies a man who's been terribly hurt by something or someone but who's too stubborn to admit it.

As the days and weeks pass, Nolie chips away at Chase's shell of silence and self-pity and little by little he opens up. Soon their attraction becomes undeniable and they talk about the possibility of a new life together. However, Chase has neglected to tell Nolie that he's an ex-con, afraid the admission would scare her off or at the least drive a big wedge into their blossoming relationship. When Nolie's in-laws travel to Bethlehem for a last ditch effort to lure her and their beloved grand daughter 'back home to Arkansas where Micahlyn belongs', they're shocked to find Nolie seeing another man and an ex-con to boot. Nolie is disappointed and hurt that Chase hadn't trusted her enough to talk about his past and wonders if their relationship was doomed all along. But as always, Sophy and Gloria, Bethlehem's resident angels, spread some of their enchantment at just the right time to assure all is well in their little corner of the world.

Cabin Fever is a competent addition to Marilyn Pappano's popular Bethlehem series. Readers who haven't tried at least one of the earlier stories might find themselves somewhat confused by walk-ons of many of the previous characters. The author is also a bit heavy handed with Chase's characterization, leaving him wallowing in self-pity through far too many chapters and thereby often making him a less than appealing hero. Overall though, Pappano spins an enjoyable tale with the series' trademark touches of magic. There's also an interesting sub-plot between a con man and Chase's sister that makes for a good lead-in to the next entry in the series.

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