Friday's Child

Hard to Handle

Truth or Lies

Undercover Lover

The Business of Strangers
by Kylie Brant
(Silh. Int. 1366, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27436-X
Readers of the Intimate Moments series will recognize both the heroine with amnesia and the hero with emotional baggage caused by an abusive parent. Kylie Brant utilizes these plot devices but, in a refreshingly different story, the amnesiac does not regain her memory and the hero is doing something about his anguish.

Deftly overcoming the challenges of crafting a character that has amnesia, Brant’s heroine is complex, reactive and motivated. She has washed up on a beach in the tropics, badly wounded, and then rescued by a native and her small daughter. With no memory, she realizes she possesses unique survival skills and all too quickly has to utilize them when she is forced to kill an attacker who has viciously murdered her rescuer. The only notable thing she learns is that she and the assassin share a similar small tattoo of Pegasus.

Fast forward several years and we find Rianna Kingsley with a carefully built identity. Attending a police academy and then serving as a Denver cop credentialed her sufficiently to be hired in a small southern town as their sheriff.

Ria spends her off hours trying to discover her true identity. With the help of her one friend who is a computer hacker, she is tracing the only lead she has. The tattoo artist who had performed the same Pegasus tattoo on another is found incarcerated in a nearby prison.

To unwind from a big drug bust, Ria goes out of town for dinner and is hit on by both Jack, the owner, and a customer. She rebuffs both and is attacked in the parking lot by one rejected suitor. While she is handling the attacker nicely, Jake shows up to help. She has fought lust at first sight long enough; so when he offers to take her home to render first aid Ria succumbs and she leaves early the next morning without revealing her name.

The next day Jake appears in the sheriff’s office to bail out one of the miscreants, and Ria is startled to find him ostensibly on the side of the wrongdoers. He is involved in some questionable activities, so he is equally startled and angry to see a sheriff who might have been trying to set him up.

The tattoo artist is killed in prison and Jake’s ties to him surface. A stranger arrives to offer Jake a contract on Ria’s life, which forces an unlikely partnership: a not so lily-white businessman and the sheriff.

The Business of Strangers evolves with a beautiful balance of sexual tension and plot thickening. The scenes shift effortlessly, and the minor characters are much more than cardboard stand-ins. The dialogue is natural and flows well.

Whether it is the uniqueness of the characters, the plot or both, The Business of Strangers is unusual and possesses all the ingredients that make a memorable read.

--Thea Davis

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