Saturday, June 12, 2010

After The Night by Linda Howard *****

Ahhhh - another great read by Linda Howard. I've known for a while that she is a terrific author and I don't know why it's taken me so long to start glomming her backlist. This is an AAR Top 100, which is how it ended up in my TBR pile this summer.

The story takes place in south Louisiana somewhere near Baton Rouge, in a small town Ms Howard made up called Prescott. I know she made it up because I grew up in south Louisiana somewhere near Baton Rouge, and I'd never heard of it. She had it described as near the Mississippi state line and the heroine shops in New Roads. Oh not that any of this matters - except I have this creepy growing up thing about south Louisiana and sometimes reading about it gives me the heeby jeebies.

Faith Devlin is the heroine - her family was poor white trash from the word go - I mean, you couldn't get lower than being a Devlin. Her mother, Renee, was the town slut, and the mistress of the town's first family's patriarch, Guy Rouillard. He gave the Devlin family free rent on a shack on his property, where Faith and her mother lived with her alcoholic father, 2 ne'er-do-well older brothers, slutty older sister and retarded baby brother. At age 11, she's already the only responsible one in the family. And she's already over aware of the patriarch's son, Gray, currently an LSU football player.

ok, it does kinda give me the creeps to have characters attending the university my sisters attended and stuff. I just had to throw that in.

At age 14, Faith is awakened from sleep one night when Gray storms the Devlin shack to throw them all out, backed by the sheriff's department. It seems his father has run off with Renee, never to return, and Gray ends the charity right then and there. They scramble to get some belongings thrown in their cars and they head to Texas.

Gray is a well-defined Howard alpha hero - he's always had the world handed to him on a platter and feels pretty much worth it. The one constant thorn in his side is his cold society bitch mother, but he still loves her. When his father apparently deserts the family, he steps in and does what he can to save them from financial ruin. His father left no note, nothing was packed or taken - but he does send a proxy so that Gray can control the family business. I wondered that it never occurred to Gray to try to find his father, but it's explained away that the father's best friend who is also the family lawyer confirms that the father had been planning to divorce his mother and run off with another woman. No one questions it. He's really done it, even though the lawyer thought it was just drunken talking.

12 years go by - Faith has long since pulled herself up by her bootstraps and is a successful business woman. One thing bothers her, though, and that is her pull to go back to her hometown and set the record straight on what actually happened. She wants to know if the town has forgiven or forgotten - because she now knows Gray's father did not run away with her mother, who is now living with her grandmother. She figures he came back in a day or two, and everyone has moved on.

Another aside from me: I could never go back to where I grew up, and I never felt it was my hometown even though I lived there from age 2-15. Faith has no family there, and in fact didn't even know her extended family. So this part sorta got to me, because although I did feel what Faith felt (such is the power of good writing), I could never have that feeling for myself and my own "home town".

Faith isn't in Prescott 10 minutes before she's recognized - or worse, before she's recognized as her mother since the resemblance is uncanny. It becomes apparent Guy Rouillard did not return, and everyone still believes he ran away with Renee and is still with her. Gray storms into her motel room and threatens her to get outta Dodge. Self-assured, confident spitfire that she's turned into, she leaves quietly and makes a plan to come back that he can't get through so she can find out the truth. She buys a house outright (no mortgage), works from home running her multi-city business, and leaves no ends loose that Gray can use to force her out of town. He puts pressure on the local businesses to not allow her to shop there; she drives to other towns to shop. The game is on, and every step one takes is a challenge to the other.

The sexual chemistry between them is so strong the pages in the book are practically hot to the touch. It's a wonder the paper doesn't just burst into flame - but Howard, devil that she is, keeps the tension high and doesn't allow them any release til near the end of the book - leaving you panting and sweating along with them. Faith is on a mission to uncover the truth about what happened After The Night her family was run out of town - but she hasn't confided in anyone that she believes there is a different story than the one everyone tells. She doesn't tell anyone that Renee is alive and alone in another state. She is determined to clear her name there - she needs to bury the child she was and gain acceptance from her home town to go on with her life. And she is determined not to follow in her mother's footsteps as the town slut sleeping with the patriarch of the first family.

I did figure out most of the mystery sorta early on, but that wasn't a deal breaker for me. I was still on the edge of my seat waiting for Faith to give in to Gray, and for Faith to uncover the truth for herself, and for Faith and Gray to allow their feelings to come to light. There's something so exciting about reading the plot the first time, not knowing what is coming up. Although I like re-reads because you uncover more details, more layers, you can never really go back and not know what happens and whodunnit.

It's a 5 star read.

I also have this in audio, narrated by the wonderful Natalie Ross! It's a definite 5 star listen as well.

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