Stranger in the Night

Only a guy very secure in his masculinity would ever say this: I have a weird fascination with romance novels. Maybe it's because, being the sensitive sort, I'm somewhat interested in what women want, how they think, et cetera. Plus I can't believe that women can get away with buying pornography in grocery stores and reading it in public.

So when To Trust a Stranger, the new book by Karen Robards (who fellow fans will remember from such books as Scandalous, The Midnight Hour, The Senator's Wife and To Love a Man), landed on my desk with a cover featuring two overly red, ripe lips opening seductively a mere half inch away from a naked neck, I couldn't help but want to read it. Instead, with a deadline closing in, I did what anyone else with a book like this in his sweaty hands would do. I skipped to all the good parts.

As I was flipping and skimming the pages, looking for key words like "throbbing" or "quivering alabaster skin," I found something else: a plot. Or something close to one, anyway.

Ex-beauty queen Julie Carlson, needing solid proof to back up her suspicions that her wealthy, well-connected husband is having an affair, hires the hunky private detective Mac McQuarry. She unknowingly enters into a world of betrayal, blazing passion and deadly secrets in the process. See, it just so happens that Carlson's cheating husband, along with some character called "The Big Boss," is somehow tied to the murder of someone McQuarry used to love.

I'm sucked in and consider reading some of it during lunch. No, on second thought, there is no way I would be caught in public with this book.

Luckily, the book is made for skimming, with oversized print that's spaced far apart on the page. And, at 341 pages, it's about the same length as the trashy rock-and-roll groupie tell-all biography I just skimmed, again looking for all the good parts about drugs and sex. Yeah, you could say I'm a voracious reader.

The best I can tell, To Trust a Stranger goes in the R-rated category. And that's not even a hard "R." The raciest bits uncovered include a "warm, wet invasion of the mouth," a "hard and urgent mound," "creamy shoulder blades" and "a bodacious set of butt cheeks." And then there's the ending: "When she was reduced to quivering, mindless jelly in his arms, he made love to her all over again." Maybe it's worth a second skim.

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Mark Hughes