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Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hero: Johnny Wayne Harris
Heroine: Rachel Grant
Date of Publication: June 1, 1993
Started On: September 2, 2010
Finished On: September 2, 2010
This was a title I read sometime back when I first discovered Karen Robards as an author. I have always remembered this book to be one that I had immensely liked and thus I decided to revisit this story and see what had intrigued me so much back then.
Rachel Grant lives in the sleepy town of Tylerville. Coming from a rich affluent family Rachel now past thirty years of age was resigned to the fact that she would most probably spend her life in Tylerville as a high school English teacher. With her sister Becky married to Michael Hennessey, the one man who had managed to fire up her dreams and living elsewhere with her husband and three girls, Rachel knew that she would not be able to leave her mother Elisabeth and her father Stan Grant behind when her beloved father was suffering from Alzheimer disease and taking its toll on all those who loved him.
Johnny Wayne Harris is the boy from the wrong side of town. Rachel had been Johnny’s English teacher and it was only she that had seen beneath the tough as nails exterior that Johnny puts up in front of everyone else. The Harris family was considered to be white trash within Tylerville and everyone always figured that Johnny would in the end turn out to be just like his father, when in fact he had turned out to be worse when he was convicted of the vicious murder of Marybeth Edwards who had been seeing Johnny back then on the sly. Though Rachel believed that Johnny hadn’t committed the murder, the state decided that he in fact did and had sent him to jail.
Now Johnny was back, having to work off his parole and Rachel wanting to give him a second chance though she knew Tylerville would be in an uproar for the fact, offers him a job at her family’s hardware store. From the moment that Johnny steps off the bus Rachel knows that he is not the boy that she had envisioned in mind. The sullen even then handsome boy had filled up and in front of her stood a lean, hard and tough man who had matured into a dangerous looking man.
Johnny had always had the “hots” for his then teacher Rachel and had always fantasized about her during his teen years. But even then Johnny had known that apart from the age barrier that had seemed vaster back then, they would never be of the same social standing within the society and any relationship that they could have would be doomed right from the start. But Johnny was tired of dreaming and never having and all of a sudden he craves Rachel with the burning desire of a grown man.
Rachel is appalled when she feels the first inklings of red hot desire when she sees what a superb specimen of the male species that Johnny is. And with him enticing her every step of the way and slowly seducing her into his arms, Rachel who had always cared about Johnny more than she had let on suddenly finds herself out of her depths in the strong feelings that Johnny invokes in her. Its not long before the flames of desire that keeps burning finally burst out of control and Johnny is a man who definitely knows how to keep his woman happy.
Meanwhile, the actual killer who committed the heinous crime twelve years back is still on the loose and swearing to finish what had been started all those years back. When Johnny’s close friend and on and off lover Glenda Watkins is also stabbed to death in the same manner as Marybeth was, the town is in an uproar over arresting Johnny and sending him to the electric chair. The only thing that saves him is Rachel and her testimony that Johnny couldn’t have killed Glenda.
Johnny deduces that the only thing that the killer wants is to kill women who were in his life as his lovers. And Johnny knows deep in his gut that Rachel with whom he had fallen in love with and would lay down his life for was in danger of being murdered by the maniac on the loose.
This story is a wonderful read. The total bad boy image that Ms. Robards has effectively created for Johnny would infuse any woman’s dreams. And the man that he grows into is one worth salivating over. Rachel is more than his match with her unwavering faith in him and the love that burns deep within her heart for the man whom the society deems as unacceptable. With glimpses into Rachel’s family life, the town that abhors Johnny’s existence and the ramblings of the mind of a killer vicious enough that gave me the creeps, I couldn’t put this book down once I started. Highly recommended for those who are fans of Ms. Robards as well as those who love romantic thrillers with a good dosage of sensuality in the mix.
Sometimes, in prison, when he’d been lying awake at night staring at the bunk over his head, Johnny had thought that he missed Wolf most of all.
Wasn’t that a damned sad commentary on his life?
The dog whined again. Knowing he was being ridiculous, that he was liable to lose the hand at the wrist when the animal charged, Johnny nonetheless took a step forward,holding out his fingers for sniffing.
“Wolf? Come here, boy.”
Incredibly, the huge animal sank to its belly and slunk forward, behaving as if it wanted to believe but feared a cruel trick. Johnny dropped to his knees to greet it, his hands reaching out, burrowing in the coarse hide, stroking and scratching as the dog whined and licked and pawed him and butted him with its head.
“Ah, Wolf,” he said as he accepted the truth at last, that this one thing that he had loved had been spared in order to greet him. Then, as the big head snuggled into his lap, he wrapped his arms around the dog’s thick neck and buried his face against the animal’s side.
For the first time in eleven years, he wept.
Thoroughly ruffled, Rachel turned her back on the source of her annoyance and started for the door. She could feel his gaze on her, and the notion that he was watching her made her suddenly self-conscious. In her teetering heels, she could not help but sway.
Just as she reached the door, he made an odd sound that caused her to glance back at him, startled.
“Rachel,” he said in what was scarcely more than a husky whisper, while his eyes drilled into hers, “don’t sleep with him. Sleep with me instead.”
Her breath caught for a moment as the words coiled around her like a seductive snake. Only by forcing herself to keep walking was she able to escape.