The Strangerís Secrets
by Beth Williamson
(Kensington Brava, $14.00, R)† ISBN 978-0-7582-3473-9
The Strangerís Secrets offers a thin plot serving up numerous helping of graphic sex.† Given that the plot is unmemorable and the sex is clumsily-written at best, thereís not much here to entice the reader, especially at the cover price of fourteen bucks.

At the tender age of seventeen, Sarah Spalding was attacked and brutalized when Yankees overran her familyís small Virginia plantation in 1863.† Twelve years later, Sarah runs a boardinghouse for single women and turns a blind eye to their prostitution activities.† But Sarah longs to turn over a new leaf and start fresh.† When a wedding invitation arrives from her long-lost brother, Micah, Sara jumps at the opportunity.† She packs her few belongings, hires a woman named Mavis to act as her traveling companion, and boards a train for Colorado.

In Baltimore, wealthy Whitman Kendrick is escaping his own past. An ex-soldier, Whitman sees no future in sitting on the board of Kendrick Industries.† So heís heading to Kansas City and a mail-order bride, and then on to San Francisco, where they will make a new life together.

Sarah and Whitman meet on the train, where Mavis is turning out to be a spiteful shrew.† Sarahís long-ago injuries necessitate the use of a cane, and Whitman steps in to offer his help when Sarah runs into physical difficulties.† He escorts her to a station hotel at their first overnight stop; on the second night, theyíre in bed enjoying graphic sex. When they miss their train, and then Mavis turns up murdered, Sarah is the prime suspect.† Meanwhile, Whitman and Sarah fight their feelings for one another, and have lots more sex.†

Sarah was presented as a Wild-West type of heroine: she smokes, drinks, swears, sleeps with whoever takes her fancy, and has a huge chip on her shoulder about her cane and limp.† Frankly, she was pretty unlikable and I didnít much care whether she got a happy ending.† As for Whitman, he feels real bad about sleeping with Sarah when heís got a fiancťe waiting for him in Kansas City, but not bad enough to say no.† Soon heís developing feelings for Sarah and questioning his decision to marry someone heís never met, but not to the point where heíll call off the wedding.† No, itís okay to hit the sheets with Sarah, feel guilty, and then go marry someone else.† What a guy.† And what will happen when Sarah discovers Whitmanís particular past as a Yankee soldier?† My bet is that readers will be rolling their eyes in disbelief.

Readers who like plenty of sex in their stories will find The Strangerís Secrets to be pretty spicy, though the overwrought prose may make them snort.† If you read and enjoyed the previous book, The Redemption of Micah,you might want to give this one a look.† But for $14.00, there are better books out there.†

--Cathy Sova

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