Onyx, Feb 2002, 6.99, 384 pp.
The last time Denver-based environmental lawyer Lauren Van Horn came to her hometown San Rafael, Utah, she caused a riot with her protectionism views on the local wilderness. Now her sister Rebecca Hewitt asks her to return to help her with her former husband Joe. He claims Becca is an unfit mother due to her affair with oil magnate Gabe Randolph. Becca denies any relationship beyond friendship with the man, but wants Laura to have a pretend affair with Gabe to fool Joe. Laura's employer, the not-for-profit Colorado Plateau Wilderness Association, also sends her to San Rafael to represent them in a local environmental dispute.
Laura feels attracted to Gabe, but he heads the oil company wanting to drill in the canyon, something that she objects to as being destructive. Becca's request that she and Gabe pretend to have a romance makes her feel uneasy, but soon she and Gabe fall in love while seeking a compromise to balance employment and saving the wilderness. However, their respective supporters escalate the argument placing innocent people in danger and their relationship at risk.
Though an exhilarating look at the complex environmental vs. industry issue, the story line offers simplified solutions. The plot also uses an illogical assumption to push the intelligent lead pair together. Laura and Gabe are a superb duet, who serves as the microcosm of the bigger issue. The well-written tale is exciting and brings a strong perspective to the prime debate. Mary Jane Meier has written an insightful novel, but HOMETOWN GIRL has several sidebars that take the reader away from the key theme. Breeze through them in order to read a superb novel.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner