Beloved Stranger

The Black Knave

Broken Honor

Cold Target

Dancing With a Rogue

The Diamond King

Home For Christmas

The Perfect Family

Star Keeper

Tangle of Lies

Twisted Shadows

Tempting the Devil
by Patricia Potter
(Berkley Sensation, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-21258-0
When Atlanta-based journalist Robin Stuart learns that the recent murders of three policemen point to police collusion with the Southern Mafia, she realizes she finally has her chance to make it big. Aware of all the risks involved, she writes an article accusing a small county sheriff and some of his officers. Her work earns her not only the ire of local law enforcement, but also the attention of the Atlanta FBI and in particular agent Ben Taylor. They too want their chance at breaking a powerful drug ring. While Ben tries to persuade Robin to give him a name and she clings to her professional ethics, they both battle against their attraction for each other.

After a disastrous first marriage, Ben believes he isnít cut out for wedlock. He is convinced his own inability to connect with others may be responsible for pushing his wife away. Ambitious and career- minded, she threw herself into her job as an undercover drug agent. She became so involved with the lifestyle she developed a habit and eventually overdosed. She is still in rehab, and a guilty Ben continues to foot her bill. With a past like that, no wonder he shies away from women, and especially committed professional ones.

Yet he canít help liking and admiring Robin. Nor can he get rid of the urge to protect her. Despite the distance she puts between them, he watches over her and is conveniently close when she is nearly burned alive and again when she is almost shot.

Determined to keep her promise to her source, Robin has to deal with threats against herself and her family and pressure from the FBI. To top it all, she learns that the FBI might have a mole. This makes it even harder for her to trust Ben. What with the lust they feel for each other, it makes any relationship between them not only difficult but also unadvisable and unlikely. As the danger escalates, Robin and Ben have to decide whether they should remain true to their professions or trust their instincts and each other.

The complicated characters and the ethical conflicts they face are part of the appeal of this romantic suspense novel. No mention is made of Robinís breath-taking looks, mouth-watering cleavage and mile-high legs (on the contrary, sheís not only plain; sheís also struggling with crutches and scars caused from a recent car accident). Itís her committed professionalism, her unflinching resolve not to shirk responsibility and her downright decency that make her a credible and admirable heroine. Meanwhile, Ben has to come to terms with his inability to connect emotionally. His development is rarely forced, and his personal growth adds layers to the story.

As a whole, the novel deftly balances the romance and the suspense plots. Despite everything that keeps them apart, Ben and Robin share the same solid core and honest streak. This makes both their hesitations and their eventual triumph all the more plausible. A fair number of complications and twists prevent the characters from brooding too long over everything that holds them apart.

Consequently, we remain throughout as interested in the outcome of their investigation as in their possible future together. Given this complicated set-up, I found the ending rushed and couldnít help feeling deprived of some crucial action. But all in all, Tempting the Devil is a finely crafted book, written by someone who, for all her numerous accolades and her many years of experience, is still working hard to master new tricks.

--Mary Benn

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