Hard Candy

Heart of Texas

Lone Star Heat

One Summer Evening

Southern Fires

Sultry by Mary Lynn Baxter
(Mira, $5.99, PG-13) 1-55166-588-3
Lindsay Newman is rich, young and beautiful, but she has problems. Her whole family has big problems. Her dominating father is controlling her life and her weakling brother is bankrupt and trying to hide that along with other less legal things. Daddyís handpicked groom-to-be is following Lindsay around everywhere. She is caught between trying to please her father and wanting to be her own person. Then a new estate manager, Mitch Rawlings, shows up at the family mansion.

Lindsay and Mitch feel an immediate lustful attraction. When Lindsay finally gives in to her urges (to invite him out for dinner), she reveals two more problems in her life. She tells him that she has been institutionalized before. The reason for that was her discovery of her motherís body after her suicide. Lindsay and the rest of the family never recovered from the shock and the shame.

Whew! What is our sexy hero going to do about all that? What is Lindsay going to do about it? First of all they have sex. Then Lindsay gets pregnant. Then they get married and Lindsay tries to keep it a secret from Daddy. She loses the baby due to her brotherís dirty secrets. None of that seems to help the situation very much.

Lindsayís hesitations work because of her past history. Her struggle to become independent and to work out a marriage with Mitch is admirable. Mitchís reluctance to get involved with Lindsay seems a little more suspect. I donít care if she has the greatest body in the world, which is what he notices first. Iím glad they also have some great sex. But Lindsay seems to be way too much trouble. And Mitch is trying to avoid trouble after his previous difficult divorce and dangerous career. His ex-wife and ex-career as FBI agent both come back to haunt him later in the book.

Ultimately, although the characters are plausible and the book is well-crafted, there are just too many things going on. This is a Southern Gothic that just left me exhausted. Every moment some member of the family had a major crisis -- and all of them were different. I was interested in how Lindsay learned to deal with her depression and feel like a whole person again, but that was just one of the overwhelming difficulties one character or another had to cope with.

Also, though Lindsay proves herself to be an independent adult at last, it seems as if Mitch has to do a lot of family problem cleanup. Even the solution to all the leftover family problems at the end seems way too simplistic. Given Lindsayís and her motherís problems, doesnít anyone worry just a little bit about the potential complications a baby could have when she grows up? I wish I cared about that, too. But, like I said, all the crises in this book left me too exhausted to care much about any one thing in it.

--Irene D. Williams

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