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Thursday, September 20, 2007


****½ Innocence by Suzanne Forster. Romantic suspense.

I got this at the flea market, years ago, and it just made its way to the top of the TBR mountain. I was underwhelmed by the other Suzanne Forster books I'd read, so I didn't expect much from this one. Turns out it appears that Forster is one of those authors with a steep learning curve.

Despite its innocent (heh) title, Innocence is really dark. Sort of on the order of Anne Stuart or Laura Kinsale. In fact, it's as much a psychological thriller as it is a romantic suspense. Which is why I enjoyed it so much--I love that sort of thing.

Mary Frances Murphy was the "good" sister. So much so, that she planned on becoming a nun. Until she was kicked out of the convent.

Her sister Brianna was the "bad" sister. And she became a call girl with the Cherries agency. When Brianna is killed, Mary Frances poses as a call girl herself to find the killer, with some help from an old school friend, Blue.

While Blue's helping Mary Frances, she meets and is attracted by the local priest, and her reaction is "what a waste!" So she sets about to seduce him.

Mary Frances, meanwhile, is irresistibly drawn to the cruel and powerful Webb Calderon, who's suspected of killing her sister. She knows he's dangerous, but she can't stay away.

Webb is cold and cruel, and Mary Frances's innocence may be the only thing that can save him.

The whole book is, as I said, dark, dark, dark. No assassins with hearts of gold here. Webb's reputation is well-earned. There are no easy answers, either. Blue's priest, for example, doesn't reveal that he's actually Episcopalian. The characters all struggle with desire and duty and right and wrong, and especially with their own natures. By the time I got to the ending, I was wrung-out, exhausted, and exhilarated.

This is also one of those times when an epilogue (also known as the last half of chapter 28, seven years later) is not only okay, it's pretty essential. It's not one of those checklist epilogues--2.7 kids, a dog, still hot for each other, check, check, check,--it completes the story.

I've really got to look for more Suzanne Forster books. Anyone have any recommendations?


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