After The Night

Linda Howard
1997 reissue of 1995 release, Contemporary Romance
Pocket, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0671019708

Grade: B
Sensuality: Hot

In case you're doing a keyword search, here are a few terms that will bring up After The Night: hot ... steamy ... Southern ... alpha ...hammering ... silken ... rigid ... hilt ... summerhouse porch ... courthouse lady's room ... no ... yes. Yes ... yes ... yes!

Ah, you say, a new Linda Howard.

Sexy Faith Devlin looks exactly like her mother, which is not good, because Renee Devlin was the slut of the county, who ran away one night with her lover, Guy Rouillard, the richest man in the parish. The only white sheep in a family of white trash, Faith has been in love with Gray Rouillard, that rich man's son, since she was a little girl.

Furious at his father and the impact his betrayal has had on his fragile (read: self-involved) mother and equally fragile (read: suicidal) sister, and blaming all Devlins for Renee's part in it, Gray has the sheriff throw Faith, her retarded little brother, slutty older sister, alcoholic father, and two slimy brothers out of town (and stay out!). Watching 14-year-old Faith try to hold the family together through the chaos of that night, while the police are tossing their meager belongings out of their disgusting shack into the dirt, Gray has unsettling and mixed feelings. He wants those trash Devlins gone, but he finds some sympathy for Faith, who seems to be different than the rest of her family.

Indeed, Faith is far different. She is responsible, hard-working, intelligent, feisty as all get out, independent, and still in love with Gray Rouillard, despite his ill treatment and harsh words. It's been twelve years, and Faith wants to come home. She's prosperous now, the owner of a successful and expanding travel agency, and she wants to go back and confront the town, and the people, who despised her and her family, to prove to them that not all Devlins are worthless no-goods. Plus, Faith has a driving need to discover what really happened that night, the night her mother supposedly took off with Gray's father.

The minute Faith hits town, she is forced into a confrontation with Gray, and, oh, the sparks they do fly. Gray wants Faith, but Faith is determined to never act in any way that might be construed as loose, so, even though she is desperate to be in his arms, Faith pushes back against Gray's advances as hard and as long as she can. Hard and long seem to be the optimum words in this story, because, once Gray sets his sights on Faith, his single-minded seduction efforts are a wonder to behold.

While Gray is very alpha, he is more tempered than many of Linda Howard's heroes, and I liked him and his wicked sense of humor. Too powerful and handsome for his own good, Gray is used to being obeyed and finds it a constant source of frustration that Faith will not succumb to his charms, nor will she stop asking those questions around town about the day Guy Rouillard left town with her mother. There is a mystery surrounding that night, and Faith is determined to solve it, and clear her family's involvement.

There are some pretty unsavory secondary characters here, as there are in several of Ms. Howard's books. Because the settings and heroes are similar, I was afraid After The Night might turn out to be another Shades Of Twilight, which was repulsive, and not a story I care to re-read. But, After The Night is an absorbing read, and, if you appreciate potent love scenes that occur in unusual places, this is your ticket to happiness.

Yes, the story is flawed. The mystery is fairly transparent, and the reasons for keeping a pivotal character who knows all from coming forward, are not really very solid. After The Night is a quick, intense read, however, and I can recommend it.

-- Marianne Stillings

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