Ghost Moon

Irresistible

The Midnight Hour

Paradise County

Scandalous

The Senator's Wife

 
To Trust a Stranger
by Karen Robards
(Pocket Books, $7.99, R) ISBN 0-671-78660-1
****
Julie Carlson is certain her husband Sid is having an affair. Itís been months since they made love, even though sheís done everything she can think of to attract him. When she found the Viagra, she was sure that the drought was over, until she realized that he must be using it with someone else, since she still wasnít getting any action. And when she hears the garage door open as Sid departs on yet another late-night ďdrive around the neighborhood to help him relaxĒ when sheís sure heís doing no such thing, Julie suddenly snaps. She doesnít think about the fact that itís after midnight or that all she has on is the skimpy pale pink camisole and tap pants sheíd hoped would incite Sidís lust, she just jumps in her Jag and follows him right into the seediest and rawest block of Charlestonís red light district.

Predictably, her car attracts attention, and she hits a Blazer while trying unsuccessfully to escape a carjacking. And when it turns out that the Blazerís owner is a six-foot drag queen named Debbie in a platinum blonde wig, bright red lipstick, and size 12 spike heels, she doesnít know what to think, except how Sid will react to the loss of the car. It wonít be pretty.

Mac McQuarry is the senior partner of McQuarry and Hinkle, Private Investigations, even though he doesnít look like it dressed as a woman. The firm was hired by a woman whose redneck husband has a thing for blonde drag queens, and she wants a big divorce settlement. Hinkle is black, so Mac becomes Debbie. He recognizes Julie as soon as he sees her. He and Hinkle were on the Charleston police force when she and Sid got married, and they were part of the extra security team Sid hired for the occasion. When Mac started investigating Sid several months later on drug charges, Mac ended up with drugs in his locker and witnesses who swore he used and sold, and he and Hinkle were out on their own. Helping Julie by proving that Sidís cheating and getting her a hefty divorce settlement would be a welcome taste of sweet revenge. And of course, Mac has always thought Julie was pretty hot and sweet herself.

Meanwhile, Mac has Julie salivating when she sees him out of drag later that night, but Macís given her no clue that he was working undercover and isnít gay. (And besides, she thinks, what straight man would own a tiny white miniature poodle with painted toenails, a pink bow, and a pink and rhinestone collar and leash?)

Robards comes through for her readers in this complicated romantic suspense novel, with detailed, sizzling sex scenes, a twisting plot that includes a variety of secrets and mysteries both from the past and the present, engaging characters, and several moments of laugh out loud humor. She is adept at distracting the reader, so while at one level the villain seems obvious, other subplots draw attention away from him. Julie is a stubborn, feisty heroine determined to have things her way, and as a result gets in over her head more than once. Mac is such a voice of calm reason that itís occasionally hard for her to accept his logic. She has to learn to trust his support and he must realize that in this case, support also means love.

To Trust a Stranger is a great travel book when youíre stuck (as I was) in airports for hours and then cramped in narrow plane seats with your knees around your ears for even more endless hours. If you can handle the stares when you guffaw uncontrollably (Josephine, the dainty white poodle, in spiked black leather as a doggy dominatrix) or begin to breathe faster during the intensely erotic sex scenes, hoping no one is reading over your shoulder, this title will definitely take you away from the traumas of travel!

--Joni Richards Bodart


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