Christmas Bonus, Strings Attached

His Seductive Revenge

The Groom's Revenge

His Ultimate Temptation

Private Indiscretions
by Susan Crosby
(Silh. Desire #1570, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76570-3
What goes on behind closed doors? And do we want to know?

When a nasty, anonymous note threatens to reveal secrets about her late husband, Dana Sterling is frantic. The mere hint of impropriety is enough to cause a scandal. She’s so desperate to protect his reputation that she’s willing to unlock the door to her past.

And in walks Sam Remington. He’s changed in the 15 years since they graduated high school, and is in a position now to help Dana find the person blackmailing her. But why would he want to?

Private Indiscretions, the latest Silhouette Desire title by Susan Crosby, is original and intriguing, but disappointing because it doesn’t deliver what it promises. Some of the writing is a bit awkward, but overall the story is very good. Still, something about it will irk you until the final page, when, after a while, you’ll realize the book didn’t live up to its own hype - or your expectations.

Crosby starts strong. Her introduction of the hero on page 1 is classic, but oh so appealing: He left town in his “oil-eating Pacer” an hour after the high school graduation ceremony concluded, his belongings in plastic bags, only to return now in a Mercedes that he paid cash for, “so new it didn’t have plates.” It’s a typical local-boy-makes-good beginning, but the reader is enticed. Why is he back in town, on the night of his class reunion?

Like Dana, we’re intrigued by this grown-up version of an old friend, and he doesn’t stick around long enough to satisfy that curiosity.

She knew she couldn’t stand there forever watching him go, but she wanted to. Maybe she’d gotten the chance to apologize as she’d always wanted, but it wasn’t finished. He didn’t know everything. And now something new intruded -- her body’s response to him, a kind of sizzling need, down low. A loudly beating heart. A mind spinning with old images and now new ones.

Readers can feel the temperature rising. She wants him; he’s wanted her since high school and, in fact, only came back to see her. She’s changed in the intervening years - married a politician, became a widow, succeeded him in Congress - and he’s kept track.

A few chapters later, she calls him late one night.

She heard a rustle of fabric, as if he were resituating the pillows. He made a sleepy kind of sound that turned her on. She considered what it would be like to be curled up next to him. She was so tired of being alone. Of handling everything alone. But it was more than that. No other man made her as deeply aware of the emptiness -- and the longing.

It’s hot, and getting hotter. Unfortunately, the sizzle fizzles. The heat generated by his arrival at the reunion becomes very one-sided then quickly dissipates as the story continues. There’s a good plot about how they come to terms with misunderstandings in the past, and manage to track the blackmailer (whose identity may surprise you), but the two real sex scenes are over quickly, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am style. He doesn’t even want to cuddle - or talk.

Granted, he felt like a fool for taking advantage of their working relationship; she was a client and his firm’s reputation was supposed to be impeccable. Also, they had already waited more than 15 years. But it was over too quickly; readers never got a chance to see the desire they felt for each other, and believe it.

Their interaction becomes a bit tepid and, at times, even cheesy. “I’m never going to be able to watch you on C-SPAN again, Senator, knowing what you wear under those power suits.” Oh please!

Sex scenes don’t have to be long or even explicit to be exciting. Silhouette Desire titles, however, should conform with the standards set forth by the tagline emblazoned on each publication: “Passionate, powerful and provocative love stories that fulfill your every desire.” Perhaps the fault lies in the way Private Indiscretion was promoted, but despite Crosby’s excellent storyline, she can’t save the book from the hype on its own cover.

-- Melissa Amy

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