The Fire Still Burns

Like a Hurricane

Tropical Getaway

Killer Curves by Roxanne St. Claire
(Pocket, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7434-6277-7
Roxanne St. Claire is developing into a “must-read” author for me. This is the first of her contemporary tales for Pocket that I have read, being familiar only with her Silhouette books. Killer Curves is an entertaining story from start to finish, with NASCAR racing, old love affairs, uncertain identities, life and death decisions and well-developed romantic and sexual tension all built into the final product.

Beau Lansing loves racing. Despite his rich background, Beau has been a good ole boy in NASCAR racing for years and has a championship under his belt. But his world is slowing unraveling. First, he was involved in a wreck that killed another driver. He has sponsor troubles when an ex-girlfriend marries marketing director Harlan Ambrose and still keeps trying to get Beau in the sack. Now he finds out that his owner, and father figure, Travis Chastaine, is dying of kidney failure and needs a transplant. But his only living relative is a daughter he gave up claims to before she was born. Beau is determined to find her and get her to donate her kidney.

Said daughter is Celeste Bennett. She is the recognized daughter of soon-to-be Senator Bennett and his wife, Elise. Celeste discovered years ago that her mother had an affair which resulted in her birth. Her biological father, according to papers she found, received $25,000 to agree to give up all claims. Elise then married Gavin Bennett and produced two more children. Celeste never confronted her mother but has always wondered about her roots and what kind of man would sign away a daughter for money.

Beau comes to New York and asks Celeste for help. Initially set against it, she changes her mind when she discovers Bennett in an affair at his office. She just needs time to get away and find out about her real parentage. She and Beau concoct a scheme so that she can be involved in the NASCAR team as a sponsor liaison (essentially a social director for events at the track) and have a chance to get to know Travis. She takes the name of CeCe Benson, changes her hairstyle and enters the world of auto racing. Travis adds to the scheme when he decides that she and Beau need to fake an engagement, another effort to thwart the new Mrs. Ambrose.

Celeste is a strong heroine, learning about her strengths and her feelings as she discovers things about her parents and her "real" father. She is strongly attracted physically to Beau, but also discovers there is more to the man than the publicity. As she discovers things, she is also threatened by someone, warning her off. But she isn't sure if they are warning her off Travis or Beau. Her struggle with what to do about donating the kidney rings true for someone who is confused about what she thought to be true and what she discovers to be true about her life.

Beau has sworn off marriage, determined not to cause anyone to live through his death if something happens to him on the track. But he begins to rethink that philosophy as he becomes more involved with Celeste. He learns he can lean on her and offer her support while still maintaining his work. They connect on many levels. He also is determined she will decide to save Travis. When she is threatened, his protectiveness kicks in, yet he is able to allow her room to be the person she can be. He is the kind of hero that a reader can embrace fully.

The mystery is taut, with lots of twists and turns. The ultimate villain is not really a surprise, but St. Claire keeps just enough suspense in it so that the final resolution is always in doubt. Travis and Elise are the best examples of well-written secondary characters, but even the members of the crew and the sponsors add something to the tale.

As with many tales written about real events, there seems to be some license taken with NASCAR, although from my fan-based knowledge, many aspects are true to form. Being a fan will help, but is not imperative in order to like the story. There are also some twists that can be termed unlikely, but nothing that is too unbelievable.

Killer Curves is a fast paced suspenseful and romantic tale of two people caught up in a world of speed and emotions. St. Claire has hit the right combination for a winning story.

--Shirley Lyons

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