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    Review of EVER SO HUMBLE by Fran Shaff (see her website)

    Avalon, December 2004

    Since her mother suffered a stroke, Marisa Orlando has lost her home and been forced to move into a deteriorating apartment. But at least the apartment is a wonderful community. She has friends there, a support group. And all of that is going be destroyed by gentrification--by Lee Ramon's plan to turn the apartment into expensive condominiums. Marisa can't afford the down payment on a condo--not with so much of her salary going to pay her mother's hospital bills.

    Construction manager Lee Ramon has sunk a good part of his fortune into this conversion--and needs to complete the building on time and on schedule is he isn't going to lose everything. Thanks to the partners he took on to finance the deal, he is constrained on what he can do and who he can hire. But all of a sudden, his worst problem seems to be the sexy spitfire down the hall. Marisa pushes him to look for ways that her community can be maintained. She doesn't seem to understand that bringing the building up to code is expensive--that if he did nothing, her building would be condemned within a few years and that community would be shattered anyway. And with the attraction Lee feels for Marisa, he wants to find a way to make her happy--but not if it means losing everything.

    Marisa is always quick to jump to the most negative conclusions about Lee--but it takes her friends to break it to her that she's sabotaging herself--she's so busy protecting her heart that she won't give him a chance. Certainly he does things to her heart that she's never experienced before. Even when he agrees to a 'sweat-equity' plan that will let the residents work off some of their down payments, she insists on looking for the trick, for Lee's way of making his bottom line.

    Only when everything seems lost--for both Lee and Marisa--are the two finally willing to listen to their hearts. But then, is it too late?

    Author Fran Shaff (see more reviews of novels by Shaff) adopts a highly approachable style in telling a charming story of misunderstandings. Marisa has bene hurt before, lost everything, and is afraid to commit--even when true love comes along. Shaff does a fine job balancing Marisa's emotional responses with Lee's more pragmatic, but no less heartfelt concerns and needs. The resolution offers a bit of a surprise, but an ending that offers hope for the future.

    EVER SO HUMBLE is suitable for both young-adult and adult romance readers.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 12/22/04

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