Margaret by Patricia M. Jackson

Peggy Schoenfelder and Brian Donovan are oh-so-right for each other. They just don’t know it yet.

As this outstanding YA novel gets underway, Peggy is visiting her cousin Etta in Marquette, Michigan — escaping over Thanksgiving from her dreary job in Toledo — when Brian walks in.

“Brian Donovan was tall and slender with short-cut reddish brown hair with a helter-skelter cut. He had the most incredible searing hazel, almost golden, eyes.”

It’s not exactly love at first sight, but it’s close as Brian listens in amazement to Peggy’s prowess on the living room keyboard. She’s been accepted at Julliard in New York City, but needs to find a roommate to share expenses. Brian, as it turns out, has just joined the FBI, and will be living in — you guessed it — NYC as he gets started with the Bureau.

It’s a wonderful concept for a story, and accomplished author Patricia M. Jackson deftly weaves players and plot together to achieve the maximum enjoyable effect.

There are plenty of intertwining side stories as this third in the series of House of Donato books unfolds. A coldly calculated kidnapping sends searchers into the woods surrounding Springbook Nature Center, searching for Etta — but she’s found okay, just battered and bruised. The kidnapper gets away. Etta’s boyfriend, Tom, who helped rescue her, is filled with relief and hardly leaves her hospital bedside, even though the two had earlier been on the outs. And then there’s Izzy Donato and her on-again-off-again relationship with Murphy. Now that he’s going into pro hockey, they really should try to work things out.

It’s very well-written romance, adventure, and drama, driven by careful characterization — all the necessary ingredients for a dynamite read that keeps you guessing.

Fast forward six months. Brian and Peggy are sharing a one-bedroom flat near Central Park, and the big city is having a profound effect on both of them. Brian is deep into his law classes at Fordham University and Peggy is practicing hour upon endless hour to maintain her first-in-class piano position at Julliard.

Through sheer willpower, the pair are successfully ignoring the attraction they feel for each other.

Then, one night about 3 a.m. Peggy stumbles in the apartment door bathed in sweat. Brian, who’s been waiting up anxiously for her, grabs her and feels her forehead. He gets a thermometer and reads it –103+ degrees. A phone call to his mother for advice brings him to the realization that he must act fast to save her life.

Quickly undressing her, he plunges her into the tepid bathwater, then climbs in to keep her from sliding too far down. The moment is more tender than torrid and the author brings the scene off to perfection as Brian realizes with an electric shock that he really loves this incredible young woman. She remains unaware of his ministrations and hovers near unconsciousness as he pats her dry and puts her to bed, maintaining anxious vigilance until the crisis is past.

Moments like these, combined with a near-cinematic, scene-setting ability that puts the reader right into the hustle and bustle that is New York City, makes this novel more akin to watching a well-made Hallmark movie than reading a book. It’s that good.

In the second half of the story, Brian must put himself in harm’s way as he pursues a case at the behest of the FBI in Minnesota. And Peggy tours the world as a renowned pianist. Can their love withstand separation and incipient danger?

Find out for yourself by downloading this five-star work of romantic fiction. And be sure to read carefully so you can figure out for yourself why the book is titled Margaret.

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