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Flame by May McGoldrick
(Topaz, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-451-40807-1
****
Writing as May McGoldrick, husband and wife duo, Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick have produced a fine romance and an even finer tale of romantic suspense. Set in the Highlands of Scotland, in 1527, Flame is a romance with a Gothic-like feel to it, due to its atmosphere and its intricate, "whodunit" plot.

Ironcross Castle is a dubious prize at best. Considered cursed, its previous lairds have died unnatural and violent deaths. Six months ago, the last laird, John MacInnes, and his family were all killed in a fire. Gavin Kerr is the newest laird of Ironcross and he's not superstitious; he has every intention of carrying out his mission to put the Castle in order. He also has a personal mission: to retrieve the portrait of the previous laird's daughter, Joanna MacInnes, and send it to her grandmother.

When Gavin arrives at Ironcross, he's so taken with the portrait of Joanna he has it placed in his chambers. Unbeknownst to Gavin, Joanna is very much alive and "haunting" his Castle. During the six months since the fire, Joanna has been living in the hidden passageways of Ironcross Castle, healing her wounds and planning her revenge against those she holds responsible for the murder of her father and mother.

Gavin's arrival is a distraction Joanna cannot afford, not when her plans for vengeance are so close to being put into effect. But when it becomes apparent that someone is determined to continue the Ironcross curse and murder the newest laird, Joanna turns protector and vows to watch Gavin's back.

Those who admire strong, resilient females and strong, but still sensitive, males will enjoy Joanna and Gavin's romance. My only complaints about this tale are that I thought it was just a little too drawn out toward the end and I was a bit bothered by the overuse of adjectives like "massive" and "huge" to describe the hero's body parts.

Readers should know that the romance does share equal billing with the suspense in this story and very fine suspense it is, too. Flame is quite a good whodunit; I wasn't sure who was responsible for the "curse" until the very end of this story. There are lots of red herrings and twists to the plot, which I mystery lover that I am found very enjoyable and very well done.

--Judith Flavell


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