cover image ALWAYS IN MY HEART


Catherine Anderson, . . Signet, $6.99 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-451-20666-4

Anderson's newest contemporary romance (after Sweet Nothings) is a maudlin, predictable story that could have been told in half the time it takes here. After their third son dies in a motorcycle accident, Ellie and Tucker Grant drive each other away. Now their surviving sons, Zach and Kody, have run away to an Oregon wilderness area in a last-ditch effort to reunite their grieving parents, who foolishly decide to track them instead of calling in assistance. Ellie and Tucker's reunion is mildly complicated by the presence of new dates (though both are so unpalatable, it's impossible to see why they were attracted to them in the first place); the real obstacle to their relationship, however, is the guilt and recriminations that hang between them. As the situation grows more dire, the author begins inserting clumsy references to God, but parents ultimately find children in a climax that borrows liberally from both Lassie and MacGyver. Throughout the book, Anderson struggles to sustain some kind of tension between her protagonists by frequently dragging their conversation back to the tragedy, but her efforts only end up making Ellie and Tucker seem hateful. With charmless characters, awkward prose and enough guilt to send even the reader into therapy, this derivative effort fails to live up to Anderson's previous books. (Aug. 6)