PARADISE COUNTY by Karen Robards (see her website)
Pocket Books, November 2000
After her father's death by apparent suicide, Alexandra Haywood (Alex) was going through the motions of living. Shutting down her father's estate took all of her energy, especially when her young half-sister descended on her. Joe Welch, the troublesome horse farm manager who refuses to stay fired is the last thing she needs. Even if he reawakens the sexual desires she had believed could never again be a part of her life. Joe has a family to take care of. That Alex's sister Neely has the hots for his son only makes things worse. Joe has been abandoned before. Rich girls don't stay. Even Joe knows this. Unfortunately, his hormones don't pay attention.
It may be called Paradise County, but something is rotten at its core. Someone who identifies himself as the predator is searching for his next victim. Both Alex and Neely look ripe for the plucking. None of his victims have ever complained--of course after being burned to death, complaining isn't easy. The predator is subtle, though. In her disturbed state, Alex believes she is imagining the danger.
Karen Robards (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Robards) has created a skillful blend of suspense and romance in PARADISE COUNTY. The predator is a truly evil and compelling, yet believable and motivated villain. The sexual tension between Alex and Joe sizzles and the reader has an easy time believing, despite the differences in their social background, that these two will be a perfect couple. Neely provides both a rebellious streak to keep PARADISE COUNTY from becoming too sweet, and a brave secondary character who moves forward both the romantic and suspense subplots. I would have liked to see a little more explanation of how the predator was able to work so long undetected (what happened, for example, to the cars of his victims), but this is a minor quibble in a fine novel.
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