has also written:

A Magical Christmas

Rebel

Surrender

As Heather Graham Pozzessere:

If Looks Could Kill

Never Sleep With Strangers

As Shannon Drake:

No Other Love

No Other Man

 
Drop Dead Gorgeous
by Heather Graham
(Onyx, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-451-40846-2
***
Sometimes romance writers who turn their talents to the suspense genre just can't seem to let go of the romance formula basics. Sometimes, the addition of a bit of formula romance improves a book of suspense and sometimes this time it doesn't.

Fifteen years ago, Lori Kelly, was an innocent, beautiful and wealthy teenager who hung out with all the other beautiful teenagers in South Florida. Although Lori was dating the most popular guy in school, she was in love with the bright, beautiful boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Sean Black.

But Sean is dating Mandy Olin and Lori doesn't believe Sean feels anything for her until one night when she finds him struggling to overcome the pain of losing a brother and he reaches out to her for comfort. The next day, Sean, Mandy, Lori and the rest of their gang head for the local swimming hole. Lori and the others can't help but notice that Sean and Mandy are not getting along.

What starts out as a perfect summer day turns into a nightmare when Mandy is found dead, drowned under suspicious circumstances. Sean's considered the number one suspect and is taken in for questioning. Except for Lori, most of the people in the town believe Sean is guilty of murdering Mandy. Eventually, the case against Sean is dismissed and he disappears.

Fifteen years pass and Lori Kelly Corcoran, a young widow with a fourteen-year-old son (you do the math) has returned to South Florida to be close to her ailing grandfather. Sean Black has also returned to town as a very successful writer of murder thrillers. When Lori and Sean meet, old feelings resurface. But those feelings are put to the test when women who used to be part of their old gang, and who were present on that fateful day fifteen years ago, are being murdered one by one.

While the author definitely achieves the right tone for a novel of suspense, she weakens the book by falling back on an oft-told romance plot well, actually, a number of oft-told plots. A girl from the right side of the tracks loves a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The boy is run out of town and the star-crossed lovers do not see each other for years. Can they forgive each other their trespasses and love again?

Too much of this tale is about Lori and Sean and whether or not they can put the past behind them. This is old, comfortable and very familiar romance territory, however, the last thing a novel of suspense needs is anything that engenders feelings of comfort. A little more tension is necessary to keep this story moving along. More doubt about Sean's intentions toward Lori would have made Drop Dead Gorgeous a better novel of suspense.

Still, the author does provide a very good cast of secondary characters and possible suspects. But the very suspenseful and well written ending doesn't quite make up for the slow, predictable romance included in this story.

--Judith Flavell


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