Don't Tell

Karen Rose
2006 reissue of 2003 release, Romantic Suspense
Warner Forever, $4.99, 504 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446618969

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

With her debut novel, Donít Tell, Karen Rose came out of the starting gate with a bang. In this rather ambitious story about spousal abuse, the suspense is high and the villain full of evil. A propensity for high drama and cheesy moments mark its only truly weak points.

When we first meet Mary Grace Winters, she is in the hospital with a broken back and partial paralysis due to a fall down a flight of stairs. Her seemingly loving husband stands there by her side, but when he leans over to give her a kiss, he whispers that heíll finish the job if she ever breathes a word. She stays in the hospital for three months, agonizing the whole time about how her son Robbie is faring on his own with his father. She decides that she will do something about all this pain and fear.

When next we meet Mary Grace and little Robbie, they are Caroline and Tom Stewart, struggling but happy. Mary Grace and Robbie are believed to be dead. Caroline works for and attends the local university. A friend gave her a position as his assistant, but he passed away not long ago and Caroline is anxious about her new boss. Expecting an elderly gentleman, she is shocked when a very tall, very attractive man with a cane walks in and introduces himself as Dr. Max Hunter. And for the first time in her life, Caroline understands what it is to feel sexually attracted to someone.

Caroline and Maxís budding relationship is very sweet. Although Max doesnít know the real situation, he can sense that Caroline has been hurt in a previous relationship. Max is somewhat broken as well, having been rejected by his fiancťe because of his disability. They share an amazing chemistry, but Max gently courts her. Maxís brother, David, and Carolineís friend, Dana, help them through several possible breakdowns. While this was nice and somewhat necessary for this very insecure couple, there was a bit too much outside interference throughout the book for my taste, particularly at inopportune moments.

During all this hope for the future, the police unearthed the Wintersí case and Rob Winters is now searching for his previously-dead wife and, most importantly, his son. Winters is a nasty, white/male supremacist. He is obsessed with finding his boy so that he can raise him properly. In fact, part of the reason that he didnít kill Mary Grace (many times over) was that she was the mother of his son, so she must be accorded some smidgen of respect. That is not the case for the many people who get in his way as he hunts down his prey. What brings this to a higher level of nastiness is that Winters is a cop. The suspense in this book is pretty awesome. Wintersí evil nature made me shiver a couple of times. Knowing that he was zeroing in on the wife he abused for years while she had no idea he drew nearer created a lot of tension.

While the romance was sweet, there were definite problems. Several melodramatic scenes detracted from the realism, especially since they were spurred by something pretty inconsequential. That, combined with cheesy moments and speeches, take the book down a notch. The heroine is also a bit of a hypocrite. She calls Max a coward for not embracing his past and accepting his current situation, yet she holds on to her secrets for far too long. Luckily, her friend calls her on it, but it was annoying while it lasted.

Rose has a great talent for suspense and apparently that has been the case from the beginning. If youíre squeamish, I wouldnít recommend it or most of Rose's books, as she is not one to hold back. However, Donít Tell is wonderfully creepy and the romance, while overdone at times, is a pleasant one.

-- Andi Davis

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