Tempting Tara by Gina Wilkins
(Harlequin Temptation #676, $3.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-25776-7
Tempting Tara is the second book in Gina Wilkins' Southern Scandals trilogy. Book one, Seducing Savannah, was a January release. The series will conclude in May with the release of Enticing Emily. Savannah, Tara and Emily are "three Southern women . . . with secrets they're hiding."

Straight arrow attorney Tara McBride has just experienced a working woman's worst nightmare; she's been fired. Refusing to sign off on a document she considered unethical, her law firm has fired her. For two weeks she vegetates in her apartment, not quite able to come to grips with her failure. One evening she opens the door to find P.I. Blake Fox on her doorstep. If she'd only known what was in store for her, she might have ignored the knocking on her door.

Blake Fox has lusted for Tara for two years, but he feels that the difference in their education and background makes him unsuitable for Tara. He feels inferior, so he's lusted in silence. Knowing that she's been fired, he's spontaneously come to ask her to help him in a case. He plans for them to have dinner, go to an art gallery exhibit where, with her help, he'll conduct his business and he'll spend the evening cheering her up. All she has to do is play along with his acting at the art gallery.

Deciding 'Why not?', Tara thinks that the evening will be a diversion and a lark. She likes Blake and knows that she needs to cheer up. Tara's diversion and lark rapidly become a nightmare. At the art gallery, she sees a man on the floor who's been shot. Attempting to help him, she's grabbed from behind by the man she assumes is the murderer. Blake gets her free and as they flee, they're shot at. Her purse is on the floor by the dead man. So now the bad guys know where she lives. Blake also can't make contact with the person who hired him for the investigation. Are they being set up? For murder? For art theft?

Imagine being a law-abiding citizen and realizing that the police may not believe your explanation? They may think you are guilty. What do you do? Tara and to a lesser degree, Blake, face this situation. She has no intention of becoming a jr. detective, but she's pulled into the investigation. She's also surprised to discover that she's having a good time.

The main conflict that caught my attention is internal and in the form of self-doubt. It makes Tara wonder if Blake will want to continue their relationship after the situation is resolved. How typical. She doubts her ability to keep his interest; he feels the same way. Ah, young love.

Blake is incredibly sensitive to Tara's dilemma. Here's an example of how he handles a situation. "I'm still mad at you," she murmured, though she didn't look particularly angry . . . "No, you aren't," he answered, hiding the beginnings of a smile. Her mouth twisted wryly. "Well, I'm trying to be."

If any of you remember Clay McEntire from Hero For the Asking, HT#198, then Blake will remind you of Clay's younger brother, both in looks and the way they savor life. An inherent goodness radiates and emanates from Blake.

Gentleness permeates the whole story. Here's an example of that gentleness during a romantic interlude. "Blake nearly fell on his face in his hurry to get out of his clothes. Tara was giggling when he tumbled onto the bed beside her. He smothered her laughter with his mouth."

How wonderful to feel such instinctive trust in your partner.

I've enjoyed meeting both Savannah and Tara. Will Emily's escapades compare well to her cousins' adventures? Book one and two are good indicators that we'll be equally well-entertained.

Linda Mowery

--Linda Mowery

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