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    Review of WILD ORCHIDS by Jude Deveraux

    Atria Books, April 2003

    Ford Newcombe became a best-selling author by tapping the emotions of his family--his birth family and the wonderful family that his wife brought to him. But now he has exhausted that resource and lost his wife as well. For years he's been hanging around, looking for inspiration. He thinks he may have found it when a young woman tells him a story about the devil and the woman who loved him. Devil stories are rare and Ford thinks that he can use it. With money no object, he hires the woman as a research assistant, buys a huge Victorian home in haunted Cole Creek, North Carolina, and thinks about writing.

    Jackie Maxwell is stunned when she finds out that her fiance has stolen all of her money--stunned enough that she actually takes the job Ford offers her. She knows that she shouldn't feel any attraction toward the man who has to be twice her age, is overweight, only likes eating high-fat snack food, and hopes to vampire her story ideas into his next great novel. Still, she can't deny the evolving attraction. But she finds herself recognizing everything in Cole Creek--and begins to have visions, visions that become terribly true. She also finds herself busy spending Ford's money and liking it.

    Jackie and Ford meander through an investigation of a long-ago murder--the death of the woman who loved the devil while denying the attraction between them.

    Author Jude Deveraux sure can write. It is hard to sympathize with a spring/winter relationship, especially one between an athletic young women and a couch-potato man, and Ford's self-pity could grate. Yet under Deveraux's strong writing spell, I found myself glued to the story, anxious to find out if my guesses about Jackie's strange competitive love interest were right. Deveraux's snippy insights into the difference between prize-winning fiction and romance are both insightful and clever, adding to the novel's appeal.

    Despite myself, I can't help recommending this book. Deveraux's writing is just too good to pass it up. A couple of recommendations, though--skip the self-pitying first chapter--it turned me off to Ford so strongly that I kept hoping that Jackie would dump him for the first half the book. The resolution of the devil portion of the story is weak--I can't believe the devil would have gone to all this trouble, or would have had to even put Ford and Jackie together to get his goals, but I still found myself smiling at the end. I know this is a backhanded recommendation, but I feel guilty about liking this book--but I did.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 6/20/03

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