Dangerous Liasions

The Man She Almost Married

On Dangerous Ground

Prime Suspect

Moment of Truth by Maggie Price
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1143, $4.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-27213-8
Okay, first you have to get past the unfortunate cover of this book (the woman is apparently trying to discover whether the man has a gun in his pocket or is just glad to see her). Once inside, you will find a mixed blessing - an entertaining suspense story, and an overly familiar romance.

Chicago Police bomb technician Hart O’Brien has returned - reluctantly - to Mission Creek, Texas. When he and his mother left, ten years earlier, Hart thought it was one step ahead of the police. Zane Cooper, a member of the Lone Star Country Club where the teenager was working, accused him of theft and his mother of writing bad checks.

But Hart was already involved with Cooper’s daughter, Joan. When he ran, he left her heartbroken and (although he didn’t know it) pregnant. Forced to believe that Hart wasn’t coming back, Joan allowed her parents to ship her off to an aunt’s to have the baby and, when she returned, discovered that they’d invented an elaborate lie about an elopement followed by the tragic sudden death of her new husband.

When Hart tried to get in touch with Joan, he heard only that she married shortly after he left. Each believes that their night together meant nothing to the other. They’re both bitter, but they’re trying to get over it.

Now Hart is back, at the request of his old friend, the Mission Creek District Attorney. Someone set off a bomb in the Lone Star Country Club - now an upscale resort where Joan runs the spa and where she lives with her daughter, Helena. The local police have been unable to find out who planted the bomb or what they hoped to accomplish with the explosion.

The suspense story is very good, although “suspense” may not be quite the right word. The reader knows very early who the bad guys are - the tension arises from their positions of trust within the community and their closeness to characters we care about. There’s also a lot of quite fascinating stuff about what a bomb technician does, and it reads like the author has really done her homework. It’s interesting and integral to the story, so the whole is very coherent and builds with satisfying urgency to the climax.

I wish I could say the same about the romance.

Hart and Joan are nice enough people, and not unsympathetic, but you’re heard their story before. She was the pampered daughter of a well-to-do family; he was from the wrong side of the tracks. They fell in love (although when they managed to do this is something of a mystery to me - they eyed each other from afar for most of a summer, then had one night of passion before being separated for ten years) and her parents split them up. There’s a secret baby, and now he’s back, and you can guess the rest.

I read romantic suspense primarily for the romance, so I found this book somewhat lacking. Those of you who prefer a book to focus on the suspense plot, with a little romance thrown in to spice things up, will get much more pleasure from Moment of Truth.

--Judi McKee

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