Package Deal by Kate Vale
Publisher: North Cascades Press
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When the beautiful Amanda Gardner arrives in the coastal town of Shoreville, Washington, her only expectation is to begin a new life with her nine-year-old daughter Cecelia and a new career as an English professor at Buckley College. The previous ten years have not been easy. Undaunted, Amanda supported her daughter and managed to get her PhD. Now the bright and lively Cece is enrolled at the Campus School, and her intelligent, attractive mother is preparing for her first class at Buckley. Surely life is full…or is it?

The suspense begins when Amanda leaves Cece in her shared campus office with Carlton Winslow, her colleague and office mate while she attends a short meeting. Carlton is surly with Amanda, but queasily friendly with the blond, blue-eyed Cece.

Intrigue begins to build on the romantic level when Amanda meets the handsome Marcus Dunbar, a friendly and witty journalism professor assigned to interview new faculty members. She is attracted to the handsome, athletic –looking man in spite of herself.  His eyes—so intensely blue—are a perfect match for Cece’s!  Marcus begins to win Amanda over when he takes her and her daughter on a tour around Shoreville. However, Cece appears jealous of Marcus’s intrusion in their life.

But how can Amanda resist her feelings for Marcus? She feels torn between dreams of a loving husband and a caring father for Cecelia and nightmares that their life together might somehow be torn apart, as happened before with Cece’s father. Marcus has his own relationship demons to fight.  Then just as all three begin to open up to each other,  Cece inexplicably runs out from  her home into the street and is hit by a car,  suffering grave injuries. While the young girl recovers she suffers nightmares. She cannot, or will not, explain why she ran.

Marcus draws on his journalist-investigative skills to determine what might have happened to Cece. He believes that Carlton Winslow—especially after he disappears—was involved, but the local police are not so convinced. Amanda does not know who to trust anymore—not even Marcus.  Nothing appears as it seems and danger looms over their lives.

Vale keeps us rapidly turning pages in this contemporary novel that is as suspenseful as it is romantic. Package Deal is a riveting book–I could not put it down. Vale keeps the tension building, on multiple levels,  from  page one to the very end.