Catch Me If You Can
by Donna Kauffman, contemporary (2004)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0587-2

Donna Kauffman's debut full-length Brava story isn't exactly what the back blurb describe. It's steamy, quite funny at times, but the back blurb tells the reader to expect some wacky provincial Scottish romance filled with crazy old people and mad sheep while Catch Me If You Can focuses considerably on the internal aspects of the story as opposed to external conflicts. The main characters talk and think a lot about their relationship. Think of stories by authors where the internal conflicts are often more actualized compared to the external conflicts, such as books by Karen Ranney, and Catch Me If You Can is closer in nature to those stories.

Taggart Morgan and his father have never been close due to one personality clash that turned physical too many. But when the old man passes on, the anthropologist Tag returns to settle the matters relating to his father's estate. He intends to stay only long enough to do what he has to do before going back to his Mayan ruins. However, he stumbles upon the correspondences between his father and one Maura Sinclair. Maura is the overseer of a castle, Ballantrae, that Tag has now inherited from his pop. What has Tag flabbergasted though is the tone of his father's letters. Who is this warm and likable man? Surely not the rigid and unbending disciplinarian Tag knew? Tag has to find out and so it's off to Ballantrae he goes.

Maura is a pretty good heroine - she has a sense of humor, she doesn't view sex in a neurotic manner like many heroines tend to do, and she has really great sexual chemistry with Tag. I really like Tag who exhibits a nice balance of introspection and self-awareness of the world around him. Ms Kauffman puts in some New-Agey concepts about bonds and love in the relationship between Maura and Tag, but never mind the cosmic karma thingie, Tag and Maura exhibit trust and respect and easy camaraderie with each other and these aspects make their relationship more credible to me. Because the author develops the intellectual and emotional bond between her characters, I find the love scenes infinitely more erotic because the feelings are there along with the mechanics of the act.

The downside to all this is that the story can really drag at places. Ms Kauffman doesn't quite succeed in sustaining the momentum of her story and towards later in the story, I can't help wishing they'd just go ahead, get married, and be done with the past already. To keep the story going, Tag slowly discovers aspects of his father and the history of his family. I can really relate to Tag's issues about his father (sorry about me getting personal here) so I have some vicarious interest invested in this aspect of the plot. While I can't help thinking that the resolution is a little too neat and tidy, Ms Kauffman does a great job in exploring Tag's emotional journey throughout the experience.

Catch Me If You Can is a pleasant surprise because I'm expecting another madcap romp after reading the back blurb. This book is more similar in style to the author's paranormal romances for Bantam as opposed to her chick-lit books for that publisher. "Pleasant" is the operative word, unfortunately, because if the story doesn't drag or fall into a repetitious mode so often, this book will leave a longer-lasting impact on me. Still, it's nice to come across a contemporary Brava book that isn't all about possessive undercover agents and women wanting to be "bad", and the character development and romantic whimsy in this book will most likely appeal to readers looking for a sexy story with a strong emotional bond between the main characters.

Rating: 84

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