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Never Again by Jo-Ann Power
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Never Again (1998)

by Jo-Ann Power

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Never Again has some ingredients that launch into instant keeper status for me: Irish politics and sensational fiction, all handled expertly and interwoven with a beautiful romance between two people who are so so right for each other. Gavin Sutherland is an ambitious politician who was at the peak of his career when a terrible scandal involving the murder of one of his colleagues and the colleague’s mistress, drove him out of office, lost him the support of his family, friends, and fiancé, and sent him into exile. There was never any evidence to convict him, but the damage was done. He’s currently holed up in a remote seaside estate, trying to find a way to win back his reputation and his place in the world.

Raine Montand, an American from Baton Rouge living in England with her wealthy relatives, is on a mission. She feels responsible for Gavin’s plight, for in her capacity as cartoonist for a London newspaper, she drew a cartoon of Gavin that implicated him in the murders and fueled the furor of rumor and speculation about his guilt. So she seeks him out to right the wrong she’s done him in an act of salvation - as a kind of Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee character. She’ll help him in whatever way she can, piece his life back together, and, once she’s no longer needed, she’ll leave. The Mary Poppins thing is just an analogy. She’s twisted up with guilt and in no way treats Gavin like a child or condescends to him, but she’s just as effective as that grand nanny/angel figure. She is exactly what Gavin needs, for when she comes to him to apply for the position of his secretary under an assumed name, he’s feeling very low. His life is basically ruined, and the betrayal of his family hurts the worst. But he manages to be dignified and noble in the midst of all his suffering, but he never wallows or feels sorry for himself, never seems weak or needy. He just needs encouragement whenever he begins to doubt or lose his way, the inspiration, impetus, and motivation to keep fighting.

When he hires Raine as his secretary, she provides all this and more. They become friends almost instantly, though Raine has to walk a fine line in keeping up the pretense of being a widow, deceiving him as to his identity but still trying to be as honest as possible in their relationship. It’s a cliché used often enough to describe couples feeling as if they’ve known each other all their lives, but this author, instead of making this bald claim, shows how instantly and completely Raine and Gavin suit each other as friends, partners, and later as lovers. As part of his plan to clear his name, Raine is writing a novel that will be serialized in the newspaper, a detective/suspense/sensational novel that will mirror the events of the real murders in such a way as to hopefully flush out the real murderer. It’s a clever plan, and I love Raine and Gavin’s discussions as they work out the plot, characters and goals of this fiction. I also love the many discussions on Irish politics – one of Gavin’s main concerns when he was in office and the conflicts of which have something, no one is sure what yet, to do with the murders. Never Again is definitely heavy on dialogue, but it’s all intelligent and fascinating, whether Gavin and Raine are getting to know each other, falling in love, working out the puzzles of the case, or brainstorming over Gavin’s novel.

Gavin’s own personal story is great to follow, his growth, his struggles, his achievements by the end, none of which would have been possible without Raine by his side. But she’s far more than just a crutch for him, and has her own baggage and tortured history that calls for healing as well, which is appropriate considering she comes to Gavin with the express purpose of healing him. For all that she saves Gavin, Raine is no saint. She’s a refreshingly human character, with flaws, wit, daring, and strength. She and Gavin are true equals, and perfectly matched. Never Again is a great book. It even handles the eventual revelation of Raine’s true identity with a sensitivity and deftness that makes that aspect of plot ok – when it could have been a big mess. Go read Never Again. You won’t regret it. ( )
  theshadowknows | May 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671008994, Mass Market Paperback)

Award-winning author Jo-Ann Power brought the Gilded Age to splendid life in Never Before, the first novel in a wonderful trilogy featuring young American heiresses who grace Victorian Europe with their spirited, refreshing style. Now this gifted storyteller returns to the exquisite age of manners in a delightfullly lavish tale of these bold and enchanting young ladies...the American Beauties.

NEVER AGAIN

As a beautiful American debutante, Raine Montand has charmed all of London. But in secret, she plays another role -- that of Raynard the Fox, whose scorching political cartoons can make or break a career. Raine is devastated when one of her drawings is responsible for making Parliament member Gavin Sutherland a murder suspect. Vowing to make amends, she poses as a widow and seeks a job as Gavin's secretary, in an attempt to discover the truth that will save him.

Alone and embittered, deserted by family, friends, and fianceáe, Gavin is forced to resign from Parliament. His only supporter is the lovely but mysterious young lady in his employ, whose assistance could be invalauable in clearing his name. Gavin senses the risk of trusting one about whom he knows so little. But as their investigation continues, both Gavin and Raine realize the greatest risk of all is love -- and the grandest reward.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:57 -0400)

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