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Emily & the Stranger

Every Move She Makes

Gabriel Hawk's Lady

Her Secret Weapon

In the Arms of a Hero
Lone Wolf's Lady

 
What She Doesn't Know
by Beverly Barton
(Zebra, $6.50, R (ISBN 0-8217-7214-7)
****
What She Doesn't Know is entertaining "southern suds:" a soap opera set in the South, in this case a small Mississippi town. If you like good soap opera with southern atmosphere, this one is for you. The story is full of good-looking people. Everyone has secrets. Everyone is related to one another. The scandals you know about are a drop in the bucket to the ones you don't.

Fourteen-year-old, Jolie Desmond Royale is a well-loved princess, due to her father's wealth and her mother's lineage. Before and after the Civil War, her mother's ancestors owned and occupied, Belle Rose, a large mansion and former plantation. Being a Desmond is as close to royalty as you can get in the small Mississippi town of Sumarville.

Jolie's biggest problem is that the boy she has a crush on, Max Devereaux doesn't know she exists. Walking by his house one evening, thinking to find Max, Jolie instead finds her beloved father making love to Max's mother. But this is only the beginning of Jolie's nightmare. When she races home to Belle Rose, she discovers her mother and one of her aunts have been murdered; before Jolie can call for help three bullets rip through her back.

Jolie recovers from her physical wounds, but not her emotional ones. Although she never saw the face of the killer, she doesn't believe a trusted servant murdered her aunt and her mother. And she can't forgive her father for marrying Max's mother, Georgette, just months after the murders. Jolie leaves Belle Rose to attend boarding school and she spends her all her vacations elsewhere.

Twenty years later Jolie, now a successful designer of children's clothing, returns to Sumarville for her father's funeral. Jolie wants revenge; specifically, she wants Georgette out of her mother's home. She intends to fight for Belle Rose whether her father left it to her or not. And Jolie knows she will have a fight on her hands because Max always defend his mother.

With exception of her one surviving aunt, no one wants Jolie at Belle Rose, or in Sumarville, but Jolie is determined to stay. A childhood friend convinces Jolie to reopen the case of her aunt and mother's murder to find the truth about what happened that night. Although she wants to hate Max, Jolie finds her attraction to him hasn't died. Which could be dangerous, if there is any truth to the rumor that Max killed Jolie's mother so her wealthy father could marry Georgette.

What She Doesn't Know worked for me because I could identify with Jolie's anger and her need for revenge and justice. Also, the chemistry between Jolie and Max is very good. In addition, this tale has lots of interesting secondary characters and good secondary romances. There's a fair amount of sex in the story, with all generations being represented in the sexually active department I'm happy to say.

While the story line is not particularly original, the pacing is wonderful; you barely have time to take a breath before something else happens. Although I admire an author who doesn't allow a book to drag on, I was dismayed when I got to the last sixty pages and realized the book was almost done. I didn't want it to be finished; didn't think it could be finished. However, I must admit Ms. Barton did a fine job of wrapping up all the loose ends very quickly and very satisfactorily.

--Judith Flavell


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