Karen Robards, who delivered "a racy read" (Cosmopolitan) in her acclaimed besteller Paradise County, once again electriÞes the page with hardwired passion and thrilling suspense in this heart-pounding new novel.
Suspicion. It burned through every nerve and Þber of Julie Carlson -- the heartbreaking, infuriating suspicion that her husband was having an affair. To the rest of the world, Sid Carlson was a wealthy contractor with friends in highly inþuential places. But to Julie, he was a man who had cheated on their marriage vow -- and she knew she had to take desperate measures. Who can she trust? Heartbroken by her husband, Julie turns to a handsome stranger.
Mac McQuarry knew better than to mix women and work: the private detective had tracked enough cheating spouses to know unbridled desire usually has no good end. And he had enough trouble of his own: the disgraced former cop had been bumped way down to his current status after an explosive shakedown of the Charleston police department. But when Julie Carlson hires him, Mac can't resist. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, but her husband, a longtime enemy, was a player in Mac's inglorious downfall -- and he'd love nothing more than to catch the corrupt jerk with his pants down, so to speak.
But what begins as a run-of-the-mill assignment spiced by a Þery þirtation with beautiful Julie suddenly spirals into a harrowing race for survival. Tracking the Carlsons' car down a lonely road one night, Mac witnesses an incredible hit that targeted Julie -- and suddenly Mac and Julie have become the hunted. With the mob and the police in hot pursuit, they can rely only on each other as they crash their way through a maze of buried secrets and deadly deceptions.
The usual ingredients bubble and boil in Robards's latest romantic suspense thriller. Julie Carlson, once a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks but now the beautiful owner of a successful boutique in Charleston, S.C., seems to have it all. As the novel begins, however, a hit man circles her suburban mansion: Julie's rich husband, Sid, has hired thugs to kill her. Unaware of the danger she is in but convinced that Sid is cheating on her, Julie slips out of the house just in time and follows her husband to the red-light district, where she serendipitously and literally runs into private detective Mac McQuarry, dressed up in drag to spy on a client's husband. Julie isn't sure whether she should trust a man in a dress, but she has no one else to turn to, and soon she and Mac are working together to get the goods on Julie's crooked husband. As it happens, Mac holds a personal grudge against Sid, a prominent builder in Charleston, because Sid was involved in the disappearance of Mac's half-brother 15 years before, and then got Mac kicked off the police force when Mac tried to prove it. Robards's fans will enjoy the machinations before Julie and Mac get together, though cliches clutter every page ("The truth hit him like a hammer over the head: He had a galloping case of the hots for his newest client, who was not incidentally his oldest enemy's wife"). Of course, true love solves past mysteries, while hot kisses get as much play as life-threatening confrontations. A bodice ripper at heart, the novel is the equivalent of a box of junk candy. (Dec. 26) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 30, 2002
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Excerpt from To Trust a Stranger by Karen Robards
Fifteen years later
Julie Carlson's eyes blinked open. For a moment she lay still, heart racing, staring groggily into the darkness, not sure what had awakened her or why she felt so frightened. It took only a moment or so for her to realize that she was lying in her own bed, in her own bedroom, listening to the familiar hum of the air conditioner as it kept the sweltering heat of the July night at bay and smelling the comforting aroma of her own smooth clean sheets. Her potbellied teddy bear, a poignant memento of her late father, sat stolidly in its accustomed spot on the bedside table. She could just see the comforting shape of it by the faint glow of the alarm clock.
She must have had a nightmare. That would explain why she was curled up in a tight little ball under the bedclothes when she usually slept sprawled on her stomach; it would account for the now-slowing thud of her heart; it would explain her sense of -- there was no other word for it -- dread.
Although the words were distinct, the urgent whisper was in her head. She was all alone in her bedroom, all alone in the whole huge upstairs of her house. Sid, the dog, was obviously spending another night in the guest room.
At the thought, Julie felt her stomach knot. She had gone downstairs around eleven, to find her husband sitting on the couch in the den watching TV.
"I'll be up after the news," he'd said. Not wanting to start a fight -- all they did lately was fight -- she'd crossed her fingers and gone back upstairs to bed without uttering so much as a cross or demanding word. But here it was -- she focused on the clock -- at two minutes after midnight, and she was still alone in their bed.
Maybe -- maybe he was still coming. Maybe he was watching Letterman. Maybe tonight Leno had an especially fascinating guest.
Get real, she told herself, uncurling her arms and legs as anger edged out fear. And maybe the Pope was a Protestant, too.