Exposure by Susan Andersen
(Zebra, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-5289-8
****
Temporarily, put your next historical romance on hold and pick up this marvelous tale of love and danger. Don't let the cover of this book fool you into believing it's only suspense; there is also a love story hot enough to satisfy dedicated romance fans.

Emma Sands and her three year old daughter, Grace Melina, are on the run. Emma has discovered her powerful, surrogate father has been videotaping their most intimate moments for years. She's believes he's capable of manipulating her life and could have been responsible for the unusual deaths of her brother and her husband.

Emma's escape is slowed when her classic '57 Chevy breaks down in tiny Port Flannery, Washington. (Yes, I'll admit I did wonder why someone trying to hide would be driving such a distinctive car!) From her first appearance in town, when she stands up to an unethical, chauvinistic auto mechanic, the townspeople are intrigued with this curvaceous, smooth-talking, sultry Cajun from New Orleans. And no one is more interested in Emma than the sheriff, Elvis Donnelly.

Elvis Donnelly is not your typical small-town sheriff. He's six foot six inches of brawn and power. He overcame a difficult childhood as the town bad boy to make it big as a cop in Seattle. But when he's seriously injured in a bomb blast, he returns home to Port Flannery with a scarred face and a prosthetic hand. The locals have trouble forgetting the past and accepting Elvis.

Elvis quickly discerns that Emma is running from something, but she's reluctant to confide in him because everyone she's cared for has mysteriously died. Emma, Elvis and the watchful town of Port Flannery quickly discover that the cop and the Cajun are made for each other. Elvis just has to convince Emma to trust him to protect her and to persuade her to finally stop her running.

This book moves along at supersonic speed. In fact, I read it in one sitting. From the first tantalizing glimpse of these two terrific characters that are perfect for each other, you can't help rooting for them. Emma's sultry, southern charm can easily melt this big, tough, wounded guy. And Emma not only captivates Elvis but the entire town. (Admittedly, the town does take slightly longer.) Emma's obvious interest in their maimed sheriff leads the locals to look at Elvis in a different way. And while Elvis may be missing a hand, he was compensated with double his share of virility.

And if Emma's Amazon seductiveness isn't enough, her adorable daughter, Gracie, is hands down the most enchanting child to appear in any book I've read in a long time. Reading about tiny Gracie's bewitching of the giant sheriff was perhaps the most memorable part of this book.

Experienced mystery readers won't be surprised with any of the outcomes in this book, but that doesn't detract from the satisfying conclusion. My next assignment is to find every other book that I can written by Susan Andersen.

--Dede Anderson


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